300-Plus Claims Filed Over Okla. Plant Explosion

January 6, 2005

More than 300 insurance claims have been filed concerning a furnace explosion at a scrap metal plant in Muskogee, Okla., that killed two employees and damaged nearby homes, according to the Associated Press.

Insurance claims adjusters arrived Tuesday to estimate damage from the Dec. 28 explosion, which killed Yaffe Iron and Metal Co. employees Ernesto Chavez, 24, and Joaquin Prado, 38.

Claims over the blast have been filed through Yaffe’s insurance, said Perry Hewitt, an insurance salesman for The Beckman Co., which represents Yaffe’s insurer, ACE Insurance Co.

“You just can’t believe the violence of the boom,” Hewitt said.

The blast broke the windows and cracked the foundations of some houses in the area and caused at least $1 million in damage to the plant, which reopened Monday.

Hewitt said he is not sure how long it will take for repairs to be approved or when investigators will determine the cause of the explosion. A furnace specialist who visited the scene said fuel from the plant’s furnace might have caused the explosion.

The most common claims by homeowners involve broken windows, cracked wallboard and cracked and shifted foundations, said Hewitt, who had no estimate on the total damage to surrounding dwellings.

Some homeowners are filing claims with their own insurance carriers. State Farm Insurance has investigated 13 blast-related claims, said Kelly Dunkerley, an external relations specialist for the company.

“Many times, you’re likely to receive more prompt service from your own insurance carrier,” he said. “That’s a pretty normal condition, especially when you’re dealing with a situation where negligence and liability have to be determined.”

In an industrial accident such as this one, companies are unlikely to accept responsibility until liability has been determined, Dunkerley said.

“A lot of people are going to closely examine using their own carrier to have serious and emergency-type damage corrected,” he said. “Then they can let that carrier see if it can investigate it further and recover the money.”

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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