Settlement over exploding home promises safer practices


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Questar Gas has reached a legal settlement with the state over a house explosion that killed two people last year in Utah County, and the deal promises to make such accidents less likely in the future.

No one knows exactly what went wrong when the house in Saratoga Springs blew up and killed a young mother and a Questar gas worker. But now the company is admitting a share of the responsibility and promising some changes.

Colin King, the attorney for the Roper family, said, "It was the contractors that created the crisis, and then Questar had come in and did not respond appropriately to the crisis."

Settlement over exploding home promises safer practices

The house exploded into a pile of rubble after a subcontractor pierced a gas pipe while installing a phone line. April Roper died in her own basement, along with Questar worker Larry Radford. According to King, the fact the two were in the house was among Questar's failures. He said, "Dramatic failures and never should have allowed anybody to be, not only not in the house, but not even in the area."

Questar has reached a settlement with the state Division of Public Utilities. Philip Powlick, director of the Utah Division of Public Utilities, said, "Well, the idea here is to try to do concrete actions that would improve the safety of customers and contractors, and also workers for Questar itself."

Settlement over exploding home promises safer practices

Questar spokesman Darren Shepherd said, "We do acknowledge some responsibility. We were one of the parties involved. There were several others."

In fact, the Roper family sued six firms in all. A few months ago they reached financial settlements with the gas company, the phone company and four subcontractors.

Part of the new state settlement is improved awareness of companies working near pipelines. "Questar's going to give out a placard to these contractors and say 'This is what you gotta do.' They should have known anyway, but they didn't," King said.

Questar also agrees to beef up safety training and to hire an outside expert to review Questar procedures. "Those kinds of things are always being refined and improved upon. The settlement called for more of that," Shepherd said.

King said, "We certainly are optimistic and hopeful that this will change some of the deficiencies that led to that explosion of the Roper home."

If the state had pushed for fines on the eight safety violations, Questar would pay a maximum of $40,000. The new safety effort will cost $140,000, but the state says it's not the dollars that count, it's the improved safety.

E-mail: hollenhorst@ksl.com

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