McAlester News-Capital, McAlester, OK

June 27, 2013

Families sue McAlester propane company after Eufaula explosion

By Jeanne LeFlore
Staff Writer

McALESTER — Two families have sued a McAlester propane company for more than $ 2 million after a Eufaula explosion left one man dead and another with severe burns.

A wrongful death and a personal injury lawsuit were filed in McIntosh County District Court against Ram Inc./ W.E. Allford Propane Inc. on behalf of the families of the two men, Donald “Don” Wayne Hamiliton, 41, who died June 9, and Michael Leslie Cox.

Both men were critically injured May 7 after an explosion involving propane tanks at Ford Sand Blasting in Eufaula.

The wrongful death lawsuit filed by Hamilton’s family seeks more $1 million against Allford Propane.

The suit alleges that Hamilton was severely burned, injured and eventually died from injuries sustained in the explosion allegedly caused by a leaking propane from a tank owned maintained by Allford Propane.

“At the time of (Hamilton’s) injuries ... the tank was in a dangerous, unsafe and illegal condition caused by (W.E. Allford’s)  negligent maintenance, operation (and) transportation of the tanks (and the company’s) failure to inspect the tank ...” according to the lawsuit.

The second lawsuit filed on behalf of the Cox family, also seeks more than $1 million.

The suit alleges that Cox is incapacitated as a result of the May explosion.

The suit also alleges the tank was in a dangerous, unsafe and illegal condition caused by (W.E. Allford’s)  negligent maintenance, operation (and) transportation of the tanks (and the company’s) failure to inspect the tank ...” according to the lawsuit.

Both suits allege that (W.E. Allford’s) acts “constitute a reckless disregard for the rights of others.”

Representing both families is McAlester Attorney Jeremy Beaver.

Beaver said the incident could have been avoided if W.E. Allford Propane obeyed the law.

“The law requires that propane tanks such as the one that caused this explosion should be at least 95 percent empty when they are transported,” Beaver said.

“It's the owner of the tank that is responsible for ensuring this. That law was not followed here.

He said preventing the accidents is the whole purpose of the law.

“The tank owned by the defendants had at least five to seven times that much, Beaver said.

“ Had the tank been 95 percent empty the explosion would not have happened. Preventing these types of explosions and injuries is the whole purpose of this law.”

Beaver also said Hamilton’s death and Cox’s injuries are devastating for the families of both men.

“Don Hamilton was a hard working family man. His wife of 17 years and his two young children miss him greatly,” he said.

“Michael Cox has burns over most of his body and is still suffering tremendously in a hospital bed,” Beaver said.

“This is a tragedy that should not have happened.”

Meanwhile the W.E. Allford Inc. said in a statement ath company had no comment on the lawsuit or the incident at this time.

Contact Jeanne LeFlore at jleflore@mcalesternews.com.