SUN PRAIRIE, Wis. - The victims of a fatal explosion in Sun Prairie last November will receive $5 million from a company that had recently installed a furnace inside the home just before the incident, according to the victim's attorney.
The explosion on Nov. 9, 2010 blew apart the home on Coral Drive, killing 26-year-old Andrew Manley, paralyzing 27-year-old Steven Slack and injuring his girlfriend, 27-year-old Lindsey Stephany. Slack will receive most of the $5 million settlement, with the rest going to Stephany and to Manley's family.
Sun Prairie police and the state fire marshal investigators said that they believed the explosion was caused by a natural gas leak. However, the official cause of the explosion is undetermined because they were unable to trace the actual source of ignition.
Madison attorney Daniel Rottier said that the settlement was the maximum amount of liability insurance carried by Service Specialists of Dane County, which installed the furnace six days before the explosion.
Rottier said his firm conducted its own investigation into the cause. He said his team found a gas pipe at the site, which local and state investigators had never located. Rottier said the pipe was not tightened property, and was a piece of evidence.
"The installer originally told police he had nothing to do with it," Rottier said. "So when I took his deposition, he acknowledged he likely did take that off, but said he would have re-tightened it."
But Rottier said markings on the pipe, which matched the installer's wrench, indicated the pipe had been removed but not tightened.
"With that information, we had a very strong circumstantial case that the installer had loosened that pipe and not properly tightened it," Rottier said.
Rottier said the fire marshal never asked for this wrench in their investigation.
"They never found the piece of pipe. We found it for them, and then they ended up in the end saying they couldn't figure out what happened," Rottier said.
Neighbor Marv Ritchie said he hopes the settlement will bring the neighborhood a sort of closure. Ritchie said he and other neighbors will never forget the morning of the explosion. He said the cleared lot is a constant reminder of what happened.
"As far as the homeowners go, we're looking forward to having that lot again -- a home built on it -- and see the neighborhood continue," Ritchie said. "I think there is closure."
Rottier said that he is requesting the state fire marshal take a second look at the results of their investigation, and change their conclusion from inconclusive to accidental. Officials from the State Fire Marshall's Office offered no comment on Monday.
Rottier said his clients could likely have gotten much more than $5 million at trial. But he said settling for the insurance payout would guarantee they'd get money needed for expenses, and not put Service Specialists out of business.
Service Specialists, which installed the furnace, did not return WISC-TV's phone calls.
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