Family member of victim 'glad' for report on boiler explosion, w -

Family member of victim 'glad' for report on boiler explosion, wants accountability

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A boiler-plate explosion in Soulard was captured on surveillance camera at a nearby BP gas station. Credit: BP A boiler-plate explosion in Soulard was captured on surveillance camera at a nearby BP gas station. Credit: BP

A victim's family members say they're glad for some answers after a report released Thursday by a federal agency revealed significant new details about a deadly explosion near Soulard last month.

The report says a repair made back in 2012 was the cause and that maintenance was scheduled for the very day of the explosion, but the Loy-Lange company started the boiler system in the morning.  

Thursdays’ news is welcome to one victim's family member who has been waiting for answers.

“That’s what he left, a hole, in this family,” said Glenda Gordon.

Glenda Gordon says her nephew Chris Watkins was a good and happy person.

He was newly married to Tonya Gonzalez-Suarez. The two were starting their first day on the job at Faultless Linens, when a two-ton storage tank crashed through the ceiling and killed them.

“They did everything together, can you imagine, they even left here together,” Gordon said.

Two others were also killed in the blast.

Thursday, federal investigators with the Chemical Safety Board provided pictures of the corroded metal inside the tank they say caused the explosion.

Gordon says she's finally glad to know more about exactly what happened.

“They are very responsible, they were not on their job; they messed up bad,” Gordon said.

She blames Loy-Lange Box, the company that owned and operated the boiler.

They declined to comment to News 4 Thursday.

But Gordon thinks the city of St. Louis is responsible too.  A News 4 investigation revealed the city hasn't conducted their own inspections of the facility for six years.

“I think they need to be held accountable for not pushing through and making sure enough so something like this doesn't happen to someone else,” said Gordon.

The city building commissioner says their method of having stationary engineers employed by the companies at boiler sites is actually safer.

“This sounds like a regulatory scheme, this incident is evidence it's not working,” said Alderman Jack Coatar.

Coatar is the elected official over the area containing the blast site.

Alderman Coatar also said the recent report was eye-opening.

‘I am going to talk to the Building Commission and mayor's office to see what resources they need to inspect these and if they need the state to get involved, we will go to the Governor's Office,” he said.

Gordon has filed a wrongful death suit against the Loy-Lange Box company. Her attorney says it's possible they could add the city to their suit.

The city is self-insured so if city officials are found to be liable, a lawsuit could mean citizens would pay.

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