CLEVELAND -- The explosion that rocked a West Side neighborhood in January 2010 could have been prevented, according to expert testimony in a civil case that concluded last month.
A jury ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, Du West Tool & Die, who filed a lawsuit against Dominion East Ohio, the absentee landlord EZ Access Funding LLC and others.
Cleveland city arson investigator Kerry Good and nationally renowned natural gas expert Mark McDonald both said the gas explosion at 2022 West 83rd St. could have been prevented had Dominion East Ohio shut off the curb valve located underground at the street.
McDonald said that Dominion East Ohio knew live gas was feeding the vacant home but the company never closed the outside shutoff valve.
He said the company was aware of the hazard five months before the blast, which damaged 68 properties.
Dominion East Ohio refused to comment about the verdict. The plaintiff's attorney, Dennis Rehor, issued the following statement:
"The jury reached a verdict after receiving instructions from Judge Griffin. On behalf of my clients, DuWest Tool and Die Inc. and the Cincinnati Insurance Companies, I would just state that we respect the verdict reached by a jury of Cuyahoga County residents. Since the verdict, a settlement was reached with Dominion East Ohio, which is confidential as to the amount. I can not comment beyond that."
According to McDonald, Dominion planned to excavate and cut off gas service over two weeks just three months before the explosion, but the company never got around to it.
He said just four days before the blast, natural gas was found to blowing inside that home. Workers found the outside valve to be difficult to access. When asked why, McDonald said "service valves in a lot of jurisdictions are not maintained. They're not inspected and not maintained on a regular basis. You have to maintain those so when something like this happens, you can readily turn that gas off from outside."
Just last month, while the civil case was still being heard, there was another vacant home in Cleveland that exploded at 11202 Clarebird Ave.
The Cleveland Fire Department determined that the blast was a result of natural gas that built up inside the home. A spokesman for the Fire Department said someone was seen leaving the home prior to the explosion. Investigators believe that individual removed a number of items from the vacant house, including piping that was connected to the gas stove.