MCALESTER – A May 7 explosion at the Ford Sandblasting Plant is still under investigation, but family members affected by the incident are taking action.
A wrongful death lawsuit has been filed against Ram Inc./W.E. Allford Propane, Inc. by Misty Hamilton, the wife of Donald Wayne Hamilton, Jr.
Ellen Cox, the guardian of Michael Leslie Cox, is suing the same company for personal injuries. Both families are seeking more than $1 million.
In May, a 250-gallon propane tank was being lifted by a forklift when it fell, breaking off the valve. Propane began to leak and then caught fire, causing a nearby five-gallon tank to explode.
Don Hamilton and Mike Cox were placed in an induced coma from burns following the explosion.
Don Hamilton died from those injuries June 9. Hamilton was 41, married with two children, at the time of his death.
Mike Cox was severely burned and injured and remains incapacitated, according to court documents. Misty Hamilton and Ellen Cox are representing their family members.
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Both lawsuits state Mike Cox and Don Hamilton were "severely injured and burned by a fire/explosion caused by leaking propane that escaped from a propane tank owned, operated and maintained by the defendants."
Jeremy Beaver, a McAlester attorney representing the plaintiffs, says the May 7 incident could have been avoided, had the defendants followed federal regulations.
"The National Fire Protection Association has laws on the transportation of propane and (the tanks have) to be at least 95 percent empty or 5 percent full, which is about 12-and-a-half-gallons," Beaver said.
Beaver says the tanks transported to Eufaula to be sandblasted were about 29 to 35 percent full.
"That's six to eight times more than it should have," he said. "No one knew that it had that much, because they moved them with a forklift."
Court documents state the "defendants are liable for their negligent acts/omissions that caused the plaintiff's damages."
"Had it only had the 12 gallons in it that it should have had, it would not have leaked to the extent that it did," Beaver said.
The sandblasting plant is currently being investigated.