Johnson Family Suing NOCO Following Deadly House Explosion

11:02 PM, Oct 26, 2012   |    comments
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Video: Johnson Family Suing NOCO

The two propane tanks on the property of the house explosion in Wilson.
 PDF Document: Johnson Lawsuit Against NOCO.PDF

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- The Niagara County family involved in a horrible house explosion last July is suing their propane provider, NOCO.  The lawsuit was filed Friday in New York State Supreme Court in Niagara County.

The blast killed 14 year-old Sarah Johnson. It also badly injured her sister, Katie, who is still recovering.

The explosion, which was caused by some type of propane leak, destroyed the Johnson home and sent debris flying up and down their street.  The Johnson family is suing NOCO for negligence and wrongful death. 

According to the lawsuit, on the day before the blast, the family's mother, Judith Johnson, called NOCO, their propane provider, complaining of a strong odor of propane gas.  But the lawsuit alleges that a technical service representative of the company told Johnson the smell being reported is not uncommon when the tank is empty or close to empty, and assured her that it was not a serious matter and posed no risk to the family's health and safety.

The lawsuit also alleges that the NOCO technical service rep did not warn the Johnsons of the risk of an explosion, did not advise them to leave the home or to call the fire department, and did not send a company crew to inspect for a leak.

Two large, propane tanks were on the Johnson's property at the time of the explosion.  The NOCO tank was not connected to the home.  According to the lawsuit, after Judith Johnson spoke to the NOCO representative, Jody Johnson, the family's father, hooked up a different tank believing the NOCO tank was empty. The lawsuit also alleges NOCO would not refill the tank that day because the company billing department was closed.

The tank Jody Johnson installed was badly burned in footage of the scene recorded by WGRZ.  The other was a NOCO tank, which appeared to be further away from the home, was not damaged as badly. 

We've attempted to contact both James Newman, the head of NOCO, as well as the company's attorney, Terrance Flynn, about the lawsuit.  We are still waiting to hear back from them.

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