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Perfect Storm Results in Catastrophic Injuries from a Manhole Explosion

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Due to several recent snow storms, salt from the roadway is believed to have caused deterioration of electrical cables resulting in a multitude of manhole explosions in the New York City area last month. Unfortunately, one of these exploding manholes struck an elderly Brooklyn man in the head as he was walking his dog, critically injuring him.

These recent reports of numerous manhole explosions in New York City due to weather conditions bring to mind a case our office handled several years ago which resulted in a settlement after 3 mediations of over $9 Million on behalf of a masonry worker at a construction site

The cause of the recent increase in such manhole explosions is usually the result of the deterioration of electrical cable in Consolidated Edison’s antiquated underground electrical system. In the “explosion” case we handled on behalf of the construction worker mentioned above, the evidence showed that the particular Con Ed cable involved in the explosion was over 50 years old, and had been insulated with rubber neoprene.

This particular manhole was adjacent to another manhole constructed by the City of New York, which was intended for future use as part of a renovation project at a Department of Environmental Protection Plant. As the insulation began to deteriorate on the Con Ed electrical cable due to wear and tear, combustible gases began to emit from the cable.

However, with the use of expert testimony, we were able to establish that the gases that were involved in our explosion were not those solely caused by the deteriorated Con Ed cable. In fact, after conducting over 20 depositions in our case, we established that the most highly combustible gases involved in the explosion came from the adjacent DEP plant. This particular plant is used to filter sewage, and as part of that process, highly combustible gases, most particularly methane, are produced.

After conducting an extensive investigation, we were able to show that a “perfect storm” resulted from a combination of the gases produced from the Con Ed manhole, and those that leaked into the City of New York manhole from the DEP plant. Once the Con Ed cable deteriorated to the point that it began to give off sparks, it ignited a massive explosion, causing severe injuries to a 26 year old construction worker who unfortunately, was in the wrong place at the wrong time.

If you or someone you know has been injured in an explosion or construction accident, contact our office for a free consultation.

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