Survivors and relatives of those killed in a deadly industrial explosion
in 2017 on the edge of Soulard have agreed to a settlement of more than $47 million, their attorneys say.
On April 3, 2017, a 3,000-pound boiler exploded at Loy-Lange Box Company, sending a massive hunk of metal rocketing through the factory's roof. The metal flew 500 feet through the air before crashing through the ceiling of an office in the Faultless Healthcare Linen building up the block.
One man, 59-year-old Kenneth Trentham, was killed and two others were injured at Loy-Lange. At Faultless Healthcare Linen, one person was injured and three more were killed — Christopher Watkins, Tonya Gonzalez-Suarez and Clifford Lee.
All three had reported for their first day of work at the laundry company. Watkins and Gonzalez-Suarez had recently been married.
The Simon Law Firm, which represented eight of seventeen plaintiffs in the consolidated lawsuits, issued a news release last night, blaming the fatal explosion on "a series of errors" going back years. That included flaws in the design of the boiler, a botched repair job four years earlier when it was found leaking, inadequate inspections and missed maintenance.
At first, though, not even emergency crews understood the full scope of the destruction wrought by the blast. Firefighters responded to what was originally reported as a building collapse at Loy-Lange. Another long, pipe-shaped piece of metal had also stabbed through the roof of Pioneer Industries, where it severed water and electric lines but did not hit anyone. When firefighters arrived, they found two disaster sights and were not initially sure how they were connected.
It was an eerie scene. The neighborhood east of Russell Boulevard and South Broadway is dominated by factories and warehouses with shift workers flowing in and out. People in nearby plants heard the massive blast but didn't know what was happening.
"It sounded almost like a sonic boom," Connie Murphy, who was at work across the street from Loy-Lange, told the Riverfront Times
that day. "It was like 'Bam!' and everything shook."
The lawsuits filed by people injured and relatives of the four killed were consolidated in anticipation of an August 2019 trial, and there was a two-day mediation in June that led to settlements with five companies: Kickham Boiler and Engineering, Chicago Boiler Company, Aquacomp Water Treatment Services, Loy-Lange and Arise Incorporated. The plaintiffs settled with a sixth company, Clayton Industries, following the mediation.
Correction: The timing of the consolidation of the lawsuits was incorrect in an earlier version of this story. We regret the error.
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