7 LA firefighters sue over Wilmington truck explosion that injured 9

Seven Los Angeles Fire Department firefighters injured when a natural-gas-powered truck exploded in Wilmington are suing the manufacturer, designer, distributor, owner and driver of the vehicle.

The explosion occurred around 7 a.m. on Feb. 15 near Alameda Street and Henry Ford Avenue. Nine firefighters who responded to a reported vehicle fire were injured — two critically.

“It is unacceptably dangerous that a truck running on compressed natural gas can fail like this, exploding in the middle of a city street like a bomb as opposed to releasing pressure safely,” plaintiffs’ attorney Matthew McNicholas said in a statement. “This would not have occurred had the product not had hidden defects preventing the safe release of pressure.”

The lawsuit was filed Tuesday, June 18, on behalf of firefighters Andres Saenz II, Casey Dunn, Daniel Goen, Howard Weiserweaver, Ian Gallardo, Robert Ward and Tom Rodriguez.

Firefighter badly injured in Wilmington blast on road to recovery

It names as defendants a series of companies involved in the design and manufacture of the vehicle and its compressed-natural-gas fuel system, along with the woman who was driving the truck and its owner.

LAFD Capt. Erik Scott told reporters the morning of the explosion that the driver had “noticed some abnormalities of the tanks,” prompting her to stop and call authorities.

One of the truck’s two compressed natural gas fuel tanks exploded. One firefighter was violently thrown through the air by the blast, a scene captured by video.

A preliminary summary released in March by the National Transportation Safety Board determined that the driver had seen sparks in the truck cab that prompted her to pull over and call 911, but responding crews were unaware that it was a natural-gas-powered vehicle.

The report made no conclusions about the blast’s cause.

Goen was the most seriously injured of the firefighters, remaining hospitalized until Feb. 26.

According to the NTSB summary, the driver was traveling south on Alameda and “noticed sparks coming from inside the cab, near the bottom of the passenger-side seat” and pulled over.

“The truck was fully engulfed in fire before Fire Department personnel arrived, and the firefighters were not aware that the truck was CNG-powered,” according to the NTSB. “During the course of firefighting, the driver’s side tank exploded, injuring nine firefighters.”

The agency’s investigation, the report noted, continued.

The suit alleges that the defendants negligently designed, manufactured and sold what amounted to a defective CNG fuel system. It also contends there was no adequate written warning on the truck that it contained CNG tanks, nor did the truck driver alert 911 operators that the truck was fueled by CNG.

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