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Fort Worth Sandman Hotel Explosion Renews Concerns Over Atmos Energy Pipelines

Investigators are still trying to establish what was behind Monday’s massive natural gas explosion at Fort Worth’s Sandman Signature Hotel. 

But while it could be months before they’re able to determine whether or not a leaking natural gas line was to blame, the incident has already renewed concerns about Atmos Energy’s aging network of pipelines, particularly in light of their connection to a series of fires and explosions that have plagued North Texas in recent years.

Sandman Hotel Explosion Injured Near 2 Dozen People

The explosion erupted at approximately 3:30 p.m. in the basement of the Sandman Signature Hotel, located in the historic W.T. Waggoner Building at 810 Houston Street in downtown Fort Worth. 

The powerful blast caused two floors of the hotel to fall into the building’s sub-basement and blew shattered glass and a section of the facade onto 8th and Houston Streets. A sidewalk was also damaged, exposing the building’s lower floors.

“It just felt like the soundwaves went through your body,” a nearby Thompson’s Bookstore employee told WFAA. “I feel really lucky to be standing here right now.”

At least 21 people were hurt in the explosion, 14 of whom were taken to area hospitals. Three people remained hospitalized as of Wednesday, including a 27-year-old mother of two airlifted to Parkland Memorial Hospital with severe burns who is reportedly fighting for her life.

Natural Gas Leak Prime Suspect in Fort Worth Hotel Explosion

So far, it’s not known what led to the Sandman Hotel explosion. While Fort Worth fire officials have confirmed that natural gas was involved, they are still working with Atmos Energy, the building’s natural gas provider, to determine if a leaking gas line caused the blast or if the explosion triggered a leak. 

“There is a smell of gas here in downtown. We’re not sure if the smell of gas was caused from the explosion and the fire itself or if that’s what caused the explosion. But that’s what we’re looking at.” Craig Trojacek of the Fort Worth Fire Department told WFAA.

Atmos Energy Has a History of Pipeline Disasters

If a leak is found to be the cause, it won’t be the first time that one of Atmos Energy’s natural gas pipelines led to tragedy.  In fact, according to a 2018 Dallas Morning News investigation, gas leaks along Atmos lines had caused more than two dozen Texas homes to blow up since 2006, killing nine people and injuring more than 20.

That year, the rupture of an  Atmos pipeline was blamed for an explosion that claimed the life of a 12-year-old girl as she was getting ready for school in her North Dallas Home. Atmos Energy was later faulted for its failure to identify natural gas leaks in the neighborhood ahead of the blast.

In 2021, two workers were killed and two others were injured when an explosion erupted during “routine maintenance” at an Atmos facility near Farmersville. After determining that a natural gas leak triggered the blast, NTSB investigators also faulted “training practices which did not prepare workers to recognize and safely respond to abnormal operating conditions.”

Unfortunately, the Texas Railroad Commission has been reluctant to hold Atmos accountable when its aging pipelines cause death and destruction. In fact, according to the Dallas Morning News, the regulator often fails to fine Atmos in connection with the most serious incidents, such as a house explosion in Irving that left a man dead or another in Oak Hill that left a boy severely burned.

And while the Commission cited Atmos Energy’s mid-Texas division for more than 2,000 alleged safety violations over the course of a decade, the company ultimately paid less than $250,000 in penalties, the Morning News found.

“You don’t have to worry about enforcement or being penalized by the state of Texas, so there’s very little incentive to comply with the regulations,” Brigham McCown, a former deputy and acting administrator of the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, told the Dallas Morning News.

Ryan Zehl, founder and managing partner of Zehl & Associates, told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram shortly after the Sandman Hotel explosion that Atmos Energy’s “history of natural gas explosions caused by leaks” would likely strengthen any legal claims victims decide to bring against the company. 

Atmos has “one of the oldest, most antiquated pipelines in the country; over 800 miles of their pipelines are still made of steel and cast iron, and that is highly susceptible to corrosion,” he noted, potentially leaving the company open to claims of negligence, gross negligence and possibly product liability.

However, Atmos is not the only potential defendant that could be facing Sandman Hotel explosion lawsuits. Depending on the outcome of the investigation, other parties that could find themselves in the legal crosshairs include:

  • Northland Properties, the owner of the hotel building, if any gas lines located within the property are implicated in the explosion.
  • Contractors hired to maintain or service natural gas lines on the property.
  • Contractors hired to install, maintain, or service equipment or appliances that caused or contributed to the explosion.
  • Contractors or construction companies involved in construction at the building, if any of their activities played a role in the explosion

“Everybody has a right to be safe,” Mr. Zehl said in another interview, this time with WFAA. “Everybody has a right to avoid negligence, and everybody has a right to stay clear of someone else breaking rules, procedures, or laws that could cause injury.”

“It really comes down to: What is the source of that gas leak, why did it happen, could it have been anticipated?” 

Fort Worth Hotel Explosion Lawyers With Billions Won: Call 1-888-603-3636 for a Free Consult.  

Our Fort Worth Explosion Lawyers continue to closely monitor unfolding developments related to the Sandman Hotel explosion.

Having won Billions, including the largest verdicts and settlements in connection with the worst pipeline explosions and industrial disasters in recent history, our Texas explosion lawyers have the resources and experience to ensure our clients and their families receive the maximum compensation possible for all their injuries and losses.

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