Jacobus, PA – By ANN GROVE Dispatch/Sunday News

A Jacobus couple whose home was leveled by a natural-gas explosion in February 2003 filed a civil complaint yesterday against Columbia Gas of Pennsylvania Inc. and a York City contractor whose equipment they claim damaged nearby gas lines.

The couple is demanding a jury trial and is seeking $300,000 from Gregory Contractors, 2080 Lemon St., and $90,000 from Columbia Gas, plus costs and unspecified punitive damages from both.

Chris and Amy Krichten were inside the 6 Circle Drive home with their children, Megan, 9, and Joshua, 11, and a family friend, Ted Hake, when the home exploded. All were injured but survived. The home was leveled.

The complaint claims that employees of Gregory Contractors, the company that remodeled their home, damaged a gas supply line under Circle Drive while “performing mechanical excavation.”

The weakened section allowed gas to leak, the complaint alleges. Columbia Gas officials have said in the past that an underground pipe was cracked by an unidentified party. The state fire marshal concluded that gas that seeped from the crack was ignited by a pilot light in the Krichtens’ hot water heater or furnace.

The complaint also alleges that Gregory Contractors damaged other gas lines in Jacobus but failed to report any incident to Columbia Gas or any investigative agency.

In addition, the complaint alleges that Columbia Gas did not respond appropriately to reports of a gas odor by one or more neighbors.

The Krichtens’ attorneys and spokesmen for Columbia Gas and Gregory Contractors were not available late yesterday.

However, attorney John Briggs, one of two lawyers representing the Krichtens, said in July that the family “suffered significant losses and injuries for which restitution is necessary, but that the Krichtens will make every effort to resolve this matter by agreement, before commencing legal action.”