Ark. Lawsuit Accuses Propane Supplier of Negligence in Blast

The wife of a man severely burned in an explosion three years ago at Detco Industries Inc. in Conway, Ark., has sued the plant’s supplier of propane gas, saying the supplier didn’t properly inspect Detco or train plant workers on how to handle the dangerous, odorless gas.

Investigators at the time said the explosion and fire were caused by the ignition of propane gas leaking from a valve on a machine that pressurizes aerosol cans.

The lawsuit was filed in federal court Jan. 5 by Kerri Dingman, whose husband, Kirk, was severely burned in the blast. Kirk Dingman died of unrelated causes Dec. 8.

Dingman’s lawsuit accuses Aeropres Propane and the company that acquired it, Ferrellgas Partnership, of negligence. Detco makes industrial chemicals and aerosol products, such as cleaners and disinfectants.

The aerosol machine in question put propane gas into cans to be mixed with fragrance. The machine was known to be leaking but had been worked on earlier the day of the blast, officials said.

The suit describes the Jan. 6, 2004, explosion:

“At approximately 11 a.m., while (Dingman) was standing just outside the doorway of (the aerosol room), a forklift drove by,” the complaint said. “As the forklift passed, a blue spark came from the forklift. Instantaneously, a river of fire raged from the room behind him, burning him severely. Seconds after ignition, the entire Detco plant exploded, laying everything in it to waste, and sending smoke plumes miles into the sky.”

The lawsuit accuses Aeropres and Ferrellgas of inadequate inspections and improper training at the Conway plant.

The gas that caused the explosion is odorless, and Kerri Dingman’s lawsuit said the propane company failed to warn Detco and its employees on how to detect a gas leak.

“The two outdoor tanks that Detco was using to store the odorless propane gas were, to anyone having any knowledge of the hazards of propane gas, and especially to Defendants and their employees, plainly and obviously worn, dilapidated, outdated, dangerous and unfit for storing such a volatile and ultra hazardous substance,” the suit said.