Highland Hills apartment resident digs through rubble; First lawsuit filed – NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth
The first lawsuit was filed in connection with the destructive natural gas explosion last week at the Highland Hills apartment complex in south Dallas.
The explosion injured eight people, including three firefighters who remain hospitalized and displaced around 250 people.
An injured employee at the apartment complex filed a personal injury claim against Atmos Energy Corporation.
Eriq Davis accuses the natural gas supplier of complex negligence, although investigators have yet to determine the exact cause of the explosion.
Residents displaced by the blast are continuing their recovery efforts.
Abdul Karriem lived in the building that exploded.
Although his unit was spared serious damage, crews demolished the entire 10-unit building after the explosion.
Karriem returned several times to the pile of rubble left behind, wondering if any of his possessions were salvageable.
âWhen you lose everything you have, being able to come back and get some of it back, it’s a healing process and it’s a victory,â he said.
This is exactly what the trade construction contractor did on Tuesday morning, using his personal mini-loader and a crew.
âWe went there this morning with my bobcat and I moved some debris and dug a tunnel,â he said. âI saw living room furniture and said, oh ok, so my bedroom is there. And of course I was able to find my dresser.
Surprisingly, the dresser survived the explosion and subsequent demolition with several personal effects inside.
âMy passport was what I went there for,â Karriem said. âI got my passport. I can’t live without it!
Dallas firefighters and investigators are no longer permanently present at the site. The site was entrusted to Atmos Energy investigators as well as to claims adjusters.
Investigators for natural gas suppliers were seen digging holes around the property.
Fire investigators have previously paid close attention to a stove pulled from the debris.
Davis’s attorneys also provided NBC 5 with new details on the moments before the explosion.
âMr. Davis and other employees were heading to the area unit in question,â said attorney Eric Allen of Zehl & Associates.
Allen says employees and maintenance workers were dispatched to inspect a building for possible damage from a shooting that happened the night before.
âAs soon as they smelled the gas, they called 911,â Allen said.
As Dallas firefighters joined with employees to investigate the possible gas leak, the building exploded.
âMr. Davis was in the immediate vicinity of this explosion along with the other colleagues. He suffered burns, abdominal injuries and a leg injury,â he said.
The bodily injury lawsuit accuses Atmos of failing to “control and prevent the gas leaks”, “of failing to carry out operations in a safe, reasonable and prudent manner” and of claiming “the injuries and damages that the plaintiff [Davis] suffered in the incident in question were caused by the gross negligence of the defendant [Atmos Energy]. ‘
The lawsuit calls for a jury trial and a million dollars, unless a jury determines a different amount.
“The lawsuit is about obtaining compensation and medical treatment for Mr. Davis,” Allen said.
The lawyer was unable to speak openly about the decision to file a lawsuit against the company and not against the owners of the apartment complex, but pointed to “a story of [Atmos] failing to properly inspect the lines.
âWe are in the early stages. We have a rudimentary understanding of what happened and we are conducting an ongoing investigation, âhe said.
NBC 5 has contacted public relations officials with Atmos regarding the lawsuit but has yet to receive a response.
The company previously said its equipment appeared to have performed as expected.
The law firm and residents are still anxiously awaiting what investigators say caused the explosion.
âIt’s very likely that we’ll have our own experts and see if we agree with the state’s investigation,â Allen said.
After managing to collect some personal items from his old home, Karriem stopped to say one last prayer.
âI had to shut it down. I wanted to let God know that I am grateful for my life even though I lost all my possessions, âhe said. “I advance.”
However, he is worried about his neighbors, many low-income families who are struggling to recover from the explosion.
On Tuesday, the city of Dallas announced that it is partnering with several organizations to provide the 250 displaced tenants with some kind of one-stop shop for resources. Residents will be offered assistance in exploring lease termination options and replacing lost documents.
In a statement, the city said:
The City of Dallas Emergency Management Office (OEM), Dallas Public Library, and the Mayor’s and City Council’s Office have coordinated with nonprofits and volunteer organizations active in disaster situations ( VOAD) to provide a Resource Guide and Multi-Agency Resource Center (MARC) at the J. Erik Jonsson Central Library during regular DPL office hours on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Only tenants of Highland Hills Apartments can receive assistance on Tuesday, October 5 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Wednesday, October 6 from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Those wishing to provide support to the residents of the Highland Hills Apartments are requested to make a donation to the City of Dallas Emergency Relief Fund to the Dallas Foundation, bit.ly/3oqXGVu.
If any non-profit groups are interested in helping displaced residents, they can email [email protected] with their contact details and the resources they provide to include in the resource guide.
While the owners of the Highland Hills Apartments are responsible for housing their displaced tenants, the City of Dallas Emergency Management Office (OEM) helped coordinate the hotel stay.