Boston, MA – Boston.Com – The parents of two girls who died in a 2002 gas explosion at their Hopkinton home have accepted a $17.2 million settlement from NStar Gas Co. and others.

The case was scheduled to go to trial on Tuesday in Middlesex Superior Court, but the parties reached the settlement, which appears to be a record amount for a lawsuit over child deaths, said David Yas, publisher of Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly.

Tara Carey said Tuesday that she felt “a sense of relief.”

“Going to trial would have been very emotional, reliving the whole night, and I’m happy that we were able to come to some kind of closure,” she said at a news conference in Boston.

The girls and their parents were sleeping in their second-floor apartment early in the morning on July 24, 2002, and were buried in the rubble after the explosion.

The source of the leak was never identified, but lawyers for the Careys blamed it on gas company equipment that rusted in the damp basement.

“There were employees of this defendant that had a chance to avoid this tragedy, had they acted upon what was very clearly evident,” said Edward Swartz, an attorney for the Careys. “It was a rusted, rusted pipe that leaked, a high pressure line that leaked gas.”

A state investigation in 2003 found that NStar may have violated state and federal pipeline safety regulations. A $200,000 fine was imposed.

NStar is paying $12.5 million of the settlement but continues to deny any wrongdoing. NStar spokeswoman Caroline Allen said Inner-Tite, the manufacturer of the equipment that rusted, will pay $4.5 million and that the landlords will pay $175,000.

In a statement, NStar said: “This accident was particularly unusual because the property was destroyed after the incident, and so we will never fully know its cause. We felt it was important to step up and do what we could to bring closure for the Carey family and help them move on.”