Blast victims retain lawyer

A Grand Junction firefighter moves into position past the fiery aftermath of a gas explosion at a house, 1452 N. Seventh St., in this March 19 file photo.

At least two victims of last month’s gas leak and home explosion are now represented by a Grand Junction law firm in a possible prelude to legal action.

Colorado Mesa University students Roberto Lopez and Jordan Pierson have retained the local firm, Killian, Davis, Richter & Mayle, in connection with the March 19 blast that leveled a rental home at 1752 N. Seventh St. and sparked a fire that destroyed another home just to the south at 1742 N. Seventh St.

Lopez was inside 1752 N. Seventh St. and was thrown outside by the blast, which, according to a 911 tape obtained by The Daily Sentinel, was first reported to dispatchers at 12:48 p.m. on March 19, nearly one hour after a gas leak at Seventh Street and Orchard Avenue was first reported.

Pierson, who was briefly interviewed by the Sentinel after the explosion, said he lived at 1752 N Seventh St. but was eating lunch elsewhere at the time of the blast.

The newspaper learned of Pierson’s and Lopez’ legal representation after being contacted Thursday by the law firm, which indicated it is researching the incident.

Emergency call tapes show a worker with a city-hired contractor, Apeiron Utility Construction, which was installing new traffic signaling, reported at 11:54 a.m. he’d hit a high-pressure gas line at the intersection of Seventh Street and Orchard Avenue. The contractor suggested the ruptured line was unmarked.

“I believe it’s an extra pipe,” an Apeiron worker is heard on the 911 recording telling dispatchers. “Everything that’s marked is found and there’s an extra one.”

The first of several fire engines report arriving on scene at 12:04 p.m., followed by multiple callers who reported a strong odor of gas. At 12:38 p.m., a firefighter reported a “significant” problem with a gas leak and made calls for shutting down streets and residents to remain in their homes, schools and businesses over a two-block radius.

A firefighter first reported the explosion at 12:48 p.m.

The city of Grand Junction earlier this week said its insurer, the Colorado Intergovernmental Risk Sharing Agency, has hired a Littleton-based engineering firm to investigate the circumstances surrounding the incident.

City staff and City Council members gathered Friday afternoon at Pantuso’s, 755 Horizon Drive, for what was posted at City Hall as a “Seventh Street Incident Debriefing.” But city officials made no mention of the explosion investigation during the luncheon.

Interviewed after the luncheon, City Manager Rich Englehart said he decided the investigation hadn’t developed far enough to discuss the incident on Friday, despite the posted agenda item. Englehart said he and City Attorney John Shaver, not taxpayers, picked up the tab for Friday’s luncheon, which was attended by roughly 20 council and staff members.

“Really, the intent of the meeting was to thank (Pantuso’s owner) Chris Blackburn,” Englehart said.

He said the investigation will be updated at the City Council’s scheduled April 15 workshop.

Blackburn provided 212 free meals to victims and others associated with the Seventh Street incident in the hours and days following.


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