Dalton, GA – A grieving family may be getting ready to sue the city of Dalton, the Housing Authority there, Dalton Utilities and the state of Georgia.
More than three weeks ago, an explosion and fire killed Jeffrey Nations. His mother remains in critical condition at a burns hospital in Augusta, Georgia.
Relatives of the Nations family hired an attorney and point blame at Dalton Utilities and old pipes for this explosion. Nothing has been proven in this case but more investigators now dig through the rubble.
Neighbors at Woods Circle Apartments, located on Underwood Circle in Dalton, knew something went terribly wrong inside apartment 410 on August 22nd.
The concussion rocked the neighborhood. Harrison Gentry said, “I was sitting on the couch and I heard a loud explosion.”
Jeffrey Nations didn’t survive. The 34 year old man with Downs Syndrome died two days later. His 55 year old mother Martha Nations remains in critical condition. Investigators say 85 % or more of her body is burned.
But what caused this explosion? On Monday, the family’s attorney brought in fire expert Jack Ward of Florida to examine this building, which is owned by the Dalton Housing Authority.
The authority also had its own investigator inspecting. This is in addition to Dalton Fire Department’s investigation.
In its Ante Litem Notice, or notice of lawsuit against a government, the family’s attorney claimed “the negligence of the State, Housing Authority and others including Dalton utilities resulted in the death of Jeffrey from a gas explosion at his apartment.”
And lead investigators tell us this explosion and fire were clearly accidental. The cause and origin are not being released right now. Listen closely to what Chief Bruce Satterfield said on the night of the fire. “There are no underground leaks so there are no other dangers at this point from like a natural gas leak underground or something like that.”
However, the family attorney claims,”the operators of the property elected to save money instead of replacing the known defective appliances and repair and replace the old galvanized pipes from which the tenants were constantly complaining on defective hot water heaters, furnaces and stoves.”
In the Ante Litem Notice, attorney Genevieve Frazier continues, “Only after the fatality of Jeffrey and horrendous burns suffered by Martha Sue did the Housing Authority take action and replace the known defective appliances and repair and Dalton enforce Code and Dalton Utilities inspect and repair the old gas lines entering and on the property.”
Again, the cause has not been determined, but possibilities are methodically being eliminated. There is time pressure to get to the bottom of this investigation for the respective agencies involved. The notice of vacancy on each of the four units spells it out. The units have to be repaired or the building demolished before Thanksgiving.
Chief Satterfield confirmed there has been no movement on the building because of the attorney representing the family now .
The chief added the explosion was an “internal force blowing outward,” but wouldn’t elaborate because of a pending suit.
Family attorney Frazier said, “Dalton Utilities took samples of their piping and regulator system. To what extent, I don’t know yet.”
We contacted Dalton Utilities’ attorney late this afternoon after learning it too had been served notice of possible suit. We haven’t yet heard back from him.
Meanwhile, the family named a figure of in excess of ten million dollars in this Ante Litem notice.
But this is only notice, not an actual suit. Frazier says under Georgia law, you must file an ante litem notice within 60 days of an incident in question if you plan to file suit against a governmental entity.