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Dallas firefighters file lawsuit seeking $100 million for apartment explosion injuries

A photograph of a Dallas Fire and Rescue engine is parked in front of an apartment building with severe fire damage. A man is looking at the building.
Christopher Connelly
The firefighters injured in the blast required extensive skin grafts and surgeries and will require ongoing medical care for their wounds, according to a recent lawsuit.

The lawsuit alleges that negligence on the part of the apartment owners and management, as well as the natural gas company Atmos Energy, led to serious injuries to the firefighters.

The injured firefighters who filed suit are Captain Christopher Gadomski, Engineer Ronald Hall, and Officer Pauline Perez.

The firefighters were responding to a 911 call about a gas leak at one of the buildings in the Highland Hills Apartments in southern Dallas on Sept. 29. Investigators would later determine that gas had been leaking overnight from a hose severed by a bullet fired into the building.

After finding the leak, the firefighters were unable to shut off the gas before a massive explosion ripped through the building, igniting a fire that destroyed the structure and seriously injured the firefighters.

Residents were displaced for weeks following the explosion. A fourth firefighter was injured in the blast but is not party to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit alleges that the complex’s owner and operator as well as its gas supplier, Atmos, failed to take appropriate steps to prevent such a disaster. It names Mountain Creek Apts., LP, Odin Properties, and Odin Management as the property owners.

“This explosion was preventable. Plaintiffs allege that the combination of failures prior to and on the morning of this incident caused this explosion to occur,” the lawsuit argues. “As a result…three firefighters…sustained severe and permanent injuries and extensive burns.”

Neither Atmos Energy nor Odin Properties have responded to KERA’s request for comment on the lawsuit.

‘Severe and permanent injuries’

According to the lawsuit, Perez was inside the unit when the explosion occurred, and was trapped by debris as the building caught fire. She managed to pull herself out, but suffered second and third degree burns and several bone fractures that required multiple skin grafts and surgeries.

Hall was outside of the building when the explosion occurred. Hall suffered a broken leg and serious burns to more than 40% of his body, the lawsuit said, requiring multiple medical procedures.

A photograph shows a ribbon of red police tape that says Do Not Cross stretches in front of a two-story apartment building that has been partially collapsed by a fire, exposing charred beams and broken windows.
Christopher Connelly
About 300 people were displaced by the explosion and it took nearly a month to restore gas to the apartment complex.

Gadomski, also outside, was “thrown backwards a considerable distance, through two building walls,” by the force of the blast and also had serious burns. He spent six weeks in the hospital.

All three firefighters will require long-term care and continuing medical treatments for their injuries, the lawsuit said.

“But for Defendants’ negligent and grossly negligent behavior…Plaintiffs would not have suffered the pecuniary losses, mental anguish, disfigurement or permanent and disabling injuries they sustained in the explosion,” the suit says.

Negligence alleged

The lawsuit alleges that the explosion resulted, in part, from negligence on the part of the apartment owners and management, as well as Atmos. The apartment owners failed to set up protocols to prevent injuries during a gas leak, failed to maintain the natural gas systems at the apartment complex, and failed to install equipment that would have minimized leaks and shut off gas supply automatically, the lawsuit says.

The plaintiffs also describe an unregistered master meter at the unit, and claims Atmos failed to ensure that the gas meter at the apartment complex complied with state and federal safety requirements.

The lawsuit also details a history of crime and gunfire at the apartment complex, alleging that the apartment owners and management should have secured the complex to reduce the risk of gun violence.

The leak itself was the result of a bullet shot through the door of one of the apartment units, which pierced a gas line the night before.

A 28-year-old man allegedly fired into an apartment where the mother of his eight-month-old son had taken refuge from after an argument.

Phillip Dankins was arrested on Oct. 2. He remains in the Dallas County jail with a $450,000 bond facing a dozen charges including aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and seven counts of deadly conduct.

Got a tip? Christopher Connelly is KERA's One Crisis Away Reporter, exploring life on the financial edge. Email Christopher .You can follow Christopher on Twitter @hithisischris.

KERA News is made possible through the generosity of our members. If you find this reporting valuable, considermaking a tax-deductible gifttoday. Thank you.

Christopher Connelly is a reporter covering issues related to financial instability and poverty for KERA’s One Crisis Away series. In 2015, he joined KERA to report on Fort Worth and Tarrant County. From Fort Worth, he also focused on politics and criminal justice stories.