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Neighbors suing owner of West Park home that exploded, propane company

Neighbors suing owner of West Park home that exploded, propane company

Three families whose homes were damaged in December in an overnight propane explosion in West Park have filed lawsuits in Broward County against the owners of the home that was the source of explosion and the company that owned the propane tank on the property.

After the Dec. 19 explosion, there was nothing left standing of the home at 5206 SW 20th St., owned by Redes Ledix and Pierre Mertus. Four of Ledix’s family members were inside at the time and miraculously survived.

The blast was heard from miles away, and about 40 homes in the area were damaged in some way, according to city records of the damage, including shattered windows, cracked walls and damaged property.

Among those to file lawsuits against AmeriGas Propane Inc., Ledix and Mertus are Geneva Allen and Tangela and Tommie Jordan, who are neighbors across the street from the home that exploded, and two families who lived in homes on either side of the one that exploded — Timothee Sonel and Michelet Joseph and Anette and Devonaire Brown. Sonel and Joseph are also suing property insurance agents. The lawsuits were filed in March and April.

 A state investigation concluded that the explosion was “accidental” and was likely caused by  propane gas that leaked into the home from a “compromised” area on a gas line, according to the  report from the Department of Financial Services. There was “evidence of an active construction site” at the property, including a “freshly dug trench” about 10 feet south of where the home previously stood.

A few neighbors said they smelled gas in the days before the explosion and on the day of. Investigators found a 200-pound propane tank in the area that had a cap on it “with a visible leak at the cap,” according to the report. AmeriGas, the company that owned the gas tank, said there was still “a large amount” of gas inside.

A residence in the 5200 block of Southwest 20th Street in West Park exploded about 12:30 a.m. Tuesday, Dec. 19, 2023 injuring four people, authorities said. (Joe Cavaretta/South Florida Sun Sentinel)
A residence in the 5200 block of Southwest 20th Street in West Park exploded about 12:30 a.m. Tuesday, Dec. 19, 2023 injuring four people, authorities said. (Joe Cavaretta/South Florida Sun Sentinel)

“The verified presence of a propane tank confirms the witness’s testimony of smelling fugitive gas days prior,” the report’s conclusion said. “It is my hypothesis that propane gas entered the structure via an area compromised on the gas line.”

Attorney Cam Justice is representing the families suing AmeriGas, Ledix and Mertus. Justice told the South Florida Sun Sentinel on Friday that “AmeriGas basically abandoned this tank.”

AmeriGas leased the 200-pound tank to the prior owner of 5206 SW 20th St., Justice said, and the lease expired about April or May 2022, before the property was sold to the current homeowners. County property appraiser records show Ledix and Mertus purchased the home in October 2022.

Justice said the “last service record” on the tank was from about April or May 2020 and that AmeriGas was obligated to regularly inspect and maintain the tank.

“From what we can tell based on the documents, that just never happened,” Justice said of the inspections and maintenance.

West Park home explosion likely caused by propane leak into home, report says

The complaint alleges that Ledix and Mertus failed to ensure the propane wasn’t leaking, ignored signs of the leak, like the smell of gas before the explosion, or did not contact authorities “to ensure there was no explosion.” The complaint alleges that AmeriGas failed to, in part, inspect or maintain the gas tank on the property.

The explosion caused the Jordans’ home across the street over $50,000 in damage, possibly more if the home is considered a total loss after structural engineers inspect, according to their lawsuit complaint. The explosion caused over $250,000 in damage to the Browns’ home and over $200,000 to Sonel’s home, their respective complaints said.

Justice said the Browns’ home and Sonel’s home are “total losses.”  Tangela and Tommie Jordan have remained living in their home across the street, though it is “in terrible, terrible shape” with the windows still boarded and pieces of drywall continuing to fall, he said.

“Imagine, they’re asleep in their beds in the sanctity of their homes and all of a sudden this huge explosion goes off,” Justice said. “And I know a lot of our clients have had flashbacks and nightmares and they live with this all the time …”

Ledix and Mertus’s attorney J. Wil Morris told the South Florida Sun Sentinel on Friday that the explosion was a “total accident.” His clients purchased the home in West Park “as is,” did not inspect the property or install the propane tank, did not know there was a propane tank on the property and did not have insurance, he said.

Four people, including two children, hurt in overnight home explosion in West Park

“My clients’ family themselves got hurt in the explosion,” he said. Some of them have permanent injury, Morris said.

The explosion happened the “very night” that construction began at the house, Morris said.

Justice said, “As discovery goes on, I think we’ll learn more about what construction was going on and whether that compromised the line.”

An attorney representing AmeriGas in the lawsuits did not return a voicemail or email seeking comment Friday.


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