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Update: Attorneys representing Larry Lord respond to state release

Investigators believe that this bollard cut the propane line as it was drilled into the ground. The line can be seen wrapped in a yellow plastic sheath. (Photos by the State Fire Marshal’s Office)

[Update 2:14 p.m.] - Attorneys representing Larry Lord issued a statement Friday afternoon, following this morning's press release from the State Fire Marshal's Office through Maine Department of Public Safety spokesperson Steve McCausland.

"On behalf of the Lord family we appreciate the ongoing efforts of the investigating officials whom we expect will produce a thorough and revealing report," attorneys Steven Silin and Daniel Kagan of Berman & Simmons said, as part of a statement released by Giving Strong Inc., a social impact consulting firm. "The press release issued by the State Fire Marshal’s office today is by design limited in its breadth. We expect that when the Fire Marshal releases its full conclusions that report will address errors and omissions by multiple parties, some of whom are identified in today’s press release."

Silin and Kagan said that while the state's release identified the bollard installation as the cause of the leak, it "does not address the gas supplier’s  decision to refill the emptied tank without first identifying why it was empty as required by code."

The bollard was one of four installed by Techno Metal Posts of Manchester on Sept. 10, 2019, to protect an air conditioning unit. The supplier of propane for the building was the C.N. Brown Company.

The firm of Berman & Simmons is now representing Lord, who was injured in the explosion and is currently in fair condition at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. The firm previously represented the family of Capt. Michael Bell, who was killed in the explosion, but the family and other Farmington Fire Rescue members are now being represented by attorney Walter McKee.

Silin and Kagan said in their statement that it was preliminary to state whether a lawsuit would be necessary.

"It is preliminary to state whether suit will be necessary in order for all those responsible to be held accountable for the grievous harm that resulted from this tragic event," the attorneys said.

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FARMINGTON - A bollard installed to protect an air conditioning unit severed an underground propane line outside of the LEAP Inc. office building at 313 Farmington Falls Road a few days prior to the Sept. 16, 2019 explosion that killed one and injured several, the State Fire Marshal's Office announced Friday morning. Investigators said they were not able to determine what sparked the explosion.

A close up of one of the bollards.

According to information released by Maine Department of Public Safety spokesperson Steve McCausland, four bollards in all were installed outside of the building on Sept. 10 by Techno Metal Posts of Manchester. Each of those bollards, a post used to direct traffic, was sunk about seven feet into the ground, leaving three feet above the ground, McCausland said. Each bollard was 4 inches thick but had an auger head that was 10.5 inches wide, allowing the posts to be drilled into the ground. The bollards were placed five feet away from the building to protect an external air conditioning unit, drilled into the paved parking lot.

The fuel line was buried underneath the building's parking lot, running from an external 500-gallon tank located at the rear of the property to a rear corner of the building's basement wall. The line was buried at a depth of 2.5 to 3 feet, McCausland said, noting that the parking lot had been paved after the installation of the line in the summer of 2019. The line was encased in a plastic protective sleeve.

Investigators believe that the auger head of one of the four bollards severed the propane line on Sept. 10, 2019. On Sept. 13, the Friday before the explosion, Lord found that the 500-gallon propane tank was empty. C.N. Brown, the supplier for the building, was called and the tank was filled just before noon that same day.

On Monday, Sept. 16, 2019, a maintenance worker spent a short time in the building that morning and felt dizzy. That worker and Lord checked the tank again, once again discovering it empty. Lord contacted Farmington Fire Rescue, opened doors and windows in the building and told LEAP staff members to evacuate the building. Previously, Fire Marshal's Office investigators said that the propane permeated the ground and then entered the basement. Propane has a distinctive odor due to an additive incorporated into the fuel, but investigators believe that the odor may have been filtered out by the soil.

Farmington Fire Rescue arrived at 8:13 a.m. Some firefighters joined Lord in the building's basement to search for the source of the leak - previously, investigators indicated that Lord was with Capt. Timothy "TD" Hardy, Capt. Scott Baxter and firefighter Joseph Hastings when the explosion took place - while others checked the rest of the building to make certain it was vacant. When the explosion occurred, Capt. Michael Bell, 68, was on the first floor while Fire Chief Terry Bell was near the rear door of the building and Deputy Chief Clyde Ross and firefighter Theodore "Ted" Baxter were both outside the building, in the parking lot.

The explosion took place at 8:28 a.m. McCausland said that while investigators had determined the source of the leak, the spark for the explosion remains unknown.

"Although investigators have pinpointed what caused the damage to the gas line, the source of ignition that sparked the explosion cannot be determined," McCausland wrote in the statement. "There are a number of possible sources of ignition, including disruption of electricity, a light switch, furnace or static."

Criminal charges are not anticipated in relation to the explosion, investigators said Friday. Investigating agencies included the Farmington police and fire departments, Maine State Police, the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives, the Maine Attorney General’s Office, the Maine Fuel Board, which oversees fuel storage, and the Public Utilities Commission, which oversees the Dig Safe program.

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13 Responses »

  1. There may not be any criminal charges, but I guarantee there will be civil litigation.

  2. I would like to know how the gas got into the building? Was the hole through the foundation or wall not properly sealed?

  3. Just wanted to say a thank you to the Daily Bulldog for reporting the real events of that day and the days leading up to it. So many news reports and articles have been released that did not capture all that actually happened. For lack of a better term, there was a lot of "fake news" going around. Although what "sparked" the explosion is not known, it really doesn't have to be.

    To all who are praying for everyone injured on that day -- please continue to do so along with all who knew and loved Mr. Bell. Their suffering is far from over. This was a very tragic accident and a lot can be learned from it and hopefully changed because of it.

  4. I’m sick of people hiding behind an aliases. It was a terrible tragedy but everyone involved had the best interest in the well-being of community. My heart goes out to all impacted but lawsuits and blame game get us no further to making sure it doesn’t happen again. You wanna make a change then then come up with a solution instead of passing the buck. We as community need to work together to have a better protocol in place.

  5. Lawsuits are necessary in this case!

  6. Mr. Jordan, in this horrible yet preventable tragedy, accountability is inevitable. Questions should have arisen on multiple levels prior to this event occurring. There were mistakes made by at least 2 companies involved in the installation of posts and delivery of fuel. We use DigSafe when ever we dig at my place of employment, protocol of my employer, standards above DigSafe protocol. I use propane at my place of residence and would hope and pray that my fuel company would have the knowledge and expertise to recognize and question the loss of several hundred gallons of fuel in a very short period of time. Accountability. This tragedy deeply scared hundreds of people and multiple families for years to come. Generations will be affected. We do need to heal and work together as a community. But with accountability comes change for better protocol for generations to come so events like this never happen again.

  7. Get low your train of thinking is what has inhabitant people to be real .show yourself and stop hiding behind an alias

  8. Mr.White I never once mentioned not holding people accountable for the mistakes you interpreted it incorrectly it could have been avoided on many levels by multiple outfits . I also use dig Safe and it is a guide not a sure thing

  9. There is always someone or something to blame in situations regardless how terrible. Has anyone actually said Mr Lord should not have been in the building? I know he did a good job getting others out, but he too should have left. I hate to say it but was proper protocol taken in the whole situation by all parties? Just being honest not blaming anyone.

  10. The big question is, who was the human element that caused the spark that ignited the gas. Someone knows, but will the truth ever come out? Its easy to blame all the companies involved, but they were not there when the explosion occurred. I do agree that this was a tragedy but could have been totally avoided.

  11. Just my opinion but nobody including the fire department had any business being in or even around that building. The gas to air ratio had to have been tremendous to make that kind of explosion. Mr. Lord is a hero and saved many lives that day. He got everyone out safely and dispatched the fire department but why would you go into that building while it was still energized? With that amount of gas leaking everything becomes an ignition source. Hopefully everyone can learn from this tragic event and understand the dangers of gas.

  12. @ opinion,you are correct and I would like to point out that someone without protective gear on should not have been allowed back into the building at all.I'M sure the FFD has been trained not to let people into potentially hazardous situations.Only the people that were there know the what and why of the situation.The rest of us only know from the news and hearsay,and much of the news is probably hearsay.

  13. Jordan,

    Hindsight is 20/20.
    But with that being said, the human element, that sparked that explosion, if there was one, was minuscule.
    Have you ever read the warnings on gas pumps while you’re pumping gas?

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