Officials reviewing if man's death tied to Houston explosion

Officials reviewing if man's death tied to Houston explosion

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HOUSTON (AP) — A 47-year-old man who was injured when an industrial warehouse in Houston exploded last month has died, his family's attorney said Friday, but officials declined to immediately add his name to the list of fatalities caused by the blast.

Gilberto Mendoza Cruz died Wednesday, said attorney Chance A. McMillan, who is representing Cruz's family. Cruz was injured by debris from his home that was damaged by the Jan. 24 explosion at Watson Grinding and Manufacturing, and he was hospitalized a couple of times after the blast, McMillan said.

An autopsy has been performed and the results are pending on a cause of death. But McMillan said he believes Cruz's death was the result of the explosion as the husband and father did not have any health issues prior to the blast.

“This doesn’t happen on Jan. 24, he isn’t dead on Feb. 5," McMillan said.

Authorities have said two warehouse workers were killed in the explosion that also injured more than a dozen people. The warehouse was reduced to rubble and hundreds of nearby structures, mostly homes, were damaged.

Houston Fire Department Deputy Chief Richard Galvan said Friday he could not say if Cruz's death would be considered one of the fatalities from the explosion as officials were still reviewing the matter.

Cruz and his family were sleeping in their home when the blast caused the ceiling to collapse on him, injuring his neck, back and shoulder. He went to an emergency room, where he was treated and released, McMillan said.

Cruz was readmitted to a hospital after suffering “sky high” blood pressure and spent three days there before he was released. Cruz and his family were in a hotel, where they had been staying because of damage to their home, when he collapsed and died, McMillan said.

Watson Grinding and Manufacturing on Thursday filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. The company made valves and provided thermal-spray coatings for equipment.

Law enforcement officials have said an electrical spark likely ignited a propylene gas leak that led to the explosion.

Nearly 30 lawsuits representing hundreds of home and business owners have been filed in state court against the company since the explosion.

McMillan said he had filed a lawsuit on behalf of Cruz before his death with regard to the damage to his home and his injuries. The attorney said the lawsuit cannot be amended to a wrongful death suit because the bankruptcy has paused all litigation in the case.

McMillan said Cruz is survived by his wife, 12-year-old son and 6-year-old daughter and his family “”is devastated by this loss.”


Associated Press writer Jamie Stengle in Dallas contributed to this report.


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