Gainesville, GA- Ginger Evans says she hopes a multi-million-dollar verdict in the case of a propane gas explosion that killed her three children will be used to benefit other children and bring awareness to a little-known household danger.
Evans, who won the $5.25 million judgement last month, said she plans to use her share of the money to establish an orphanage in honor of her children _ 14-year-old Casey Simmons and 11-year-old twins Kayla and Kevin Simmons _ who died in the February 2002 blast.
“I want to make sure my children’s memory lives on … And that’s the most important thing to me,” said Evans, who wants to name the orphanage Three Angels.
A Fulton County State Court jury awarded Evans the amount Oct. 25 after finding manufacturer Blossman Gas and distributor H&H Shoppette negligent in the children’s deaths.
Evans’ lawyers argued that the 55-year-old tank was not properly certified or checked for leaks, and that a faulty valve caused the explosion at her northwestern Hall County home.
Attorneys for H&H Shoppette and Ocean Springs, Miss.-based Blossman, however, argued that Evans’ husband, Eddie Evans, never should have installed the faulty tank.
Jurors sided with Evans, awarding her $1.75 million per child. A second suit against Blossman, seeking $65 million in punitive damages and for the children’s pain and suffering, is pending.
Blossman attorney John McCoy said the company is considering an appeal. He declined to comment on either lawsuit.
H&H, which was found responsible for $1 million of the total verdict, also may appeal, said its attorney Jason Willcox. The convenience store was not named in the second suit.
Eddie Evans had the 100-pound tank filled the afternoon of Feb. 18, 2002, at H&H, hauled it home and tried to connect the tank to a space heater near Casey Simmons’ room.
The top of the emergency relief valve on the tank popped off, and gas began hissing out, authorities said.
Ginger heard the sound around 10 p.m., thought little of it and started to go to bed. But, “something told me to go downstairs,” she said. She and her husband went to open a door for ventilation, and the next thing she remembered was looking back to see a yellow ball of fire.
The couple was blown into the back yard by the explosion, which could be heard miles away. Both were critically injured, and neighbors pulled them away from the burning wreckage despite their attempts to run back inside for their children, Ginger Evans recalled.
“That was my life,” she said of her children. “That’s the reason I got up in the morning. That was my job to protect them. And I didn’t.”
The family hopes the case will help educate the public about checking their own propane tanks for leaks, although the jury’s decision has eased the burden that the couple has shared, said Eddie Evans’ mother, Frankie Luna.
“I think that knowing that the tank had all of these defects has taken some of the guilt off of both of their lives,” Luna said.
The two have recovered from their injuries, but Ginger said she still has many sleepless nights thinking about the day she lost her children.
“I can think of 100 million things I would have done different,” she said. “And I don’t have that opportunity.”