FARMINGTON, Maine — The family of Captain Michael Bell, who was killed in the propane explosion at LEAP Inc., building in Farmington on Septemeber 16, has hired a Lewiston law firm to investigate what caused the propane leak in the days leading up to the blast.
Attorney Steven Silin of Berman & Simmons said in a statement:
“Right now, we are working with experts in an effort to gain a more complete understanding of how this tragedy happened. We can then determine how best to hold those responsible accountable as we pursue justice for the family and the community more broadly. It's still early in the process. Berman & Simmons, with its unmatched combination of resources, experience, and expertise, is uniquely qualified to successfully handle this kind of complex case.”
Bell was a 30-year-member of the Farmington Fire Dept when he was killed at the age of 68 during the explosion that leveled the LEAP building on Route 2 that served as their central office.
Seven other people were injured in the blast including Bell's brother, Fire Chief Terry Bell Sr. The six firefighters were who hurt have since been released from hospitals and rehabilitation centers. But LEAP employee, Larry Lord remains at Massachusetts General in Boston where he has been since the explosion. Lord's status was recently upgraded to fair on November 4.
Occupational Safety and Health Administration, OSHA, also announced Wednesday they have opened an inspection of the LEAP Inc., building and three other employers who were working at the site of the new building at the time of the explosion, Techno Metal Post Me, LLC, CN Brown and Cornerstone Plumbing and Heating of Farmington.
OSHA says all four of those inspections are ongoing as they try to determine which OSHA safety and health standards apply in this situation and whether or not the employers complied with those standards.
OSHA has six months to complete the inspections.OSHA’s jurisdiction is employee safety in the private sector and federal workplaces. Non-federal public employees in Maine are covered by the Maine Department of Labor.
Investigators at the State Fire Marshal's Office said on Sept. 27 that they found a significant leak in the propane line which was buried under the recently paved parking lot had caused the fatal explosion. Normally, propane has an odor added to it, but investigators believe the odor dissipated as it filtered through the soil under the parking lot.
The propane line went from an outside propane tank located at the rear of the property, under the parking lot and into the basement of the building. CN Brown Company owned the propane tank.
The propane tank had been filled on Friday, Sept. 13, with nearly 400 gallons of propane, but the tank was empty on Monday morning prior to the explosion when Lord examined it with another LEAP employee.
Investigators said Larry Lord was in the basement with Farmington firefighters “TD” Hardy, Joseph Hastings and Scott Baxter when the explosion took place.
Fire Capt. Michael Bell was on the first floor, Fire Chief Terry Bell was near the rear door of the building, and Deputy Fire Chief Clyde Ross and Firefighter Ted Baxter were outside the building in the parking lot.
Investigators continue to try to determine how the line was damaged and what sparked the leaked propane. The propane was used in the building as fuel for the furnace and water heater.