Cleburne, TX – A former Cleburne family whose house exploded in 2007 settled their lawsuit against Atmos Energy Corporation on Wednesday, said Cleburne attorney M.C. Davis, who represented the family.
Details of the settlement are confidential, Davis said. Testimony in the case had been scheduled to begin Monday in the 413th District Court in
David Pawlik, 67, filed the lawsuit on behalf of himself and as a representative for other family members against Atmos in June 2007.
The Pawlik’s home on Woodard Avenue exploded on May 29, 2007. The explosion and subsequent fire injured several family members and led to the death soon after of Pawlik’s wife, Hazel Pawlik, and daughter, Hazel Sanderson.
Another family member, Stephanie Sanderson, 11, suffered injuries requiring a long hospital stay and will still require future operations, Davis said.
The explosion blew a hole through the roof of Pawlik’s house and led to the evacuation of 30 additional homes and Calvary Baptist Church.
Pawlik, in his filing, alleged that an accumulation of gas from lines owned and controlled by Atmos leaked into and accumulated in his house, leading to the explosion. The suit also charged Atmos with failure to maintain and
inspect the pipeline and failure to warn the family of the leakage and migration of gas.
Cleburne Fire Marshal Bill Wright concluded in a 2007 investigation report that two explosions several seconds apart occurred that day.
Several events, including a lit match, an accumulation of natural gas, heavy rain and a broken air conditioner seal, coincided to cause the explosion, Wright wrote in his report.
“Under normal circumstances the gas from this leak would spread around the area of the leak and work its way to the surface through natural openings in the soil surface and dissipate into the air,” Wright said in his report.
“Due to recent rainfall over a prolonged period of time and the water saturation of the soil surface, the naturally occurring cracks and openings in the soil surface had been sealed and did not allow the gas to escape the soil as would naturally occur. This allowed for the gas to migrate much further under ground than normal.”
The Pawlik house was all electric and had no gas power.
Gas from the leak followed the subsurface path of the water line under Pawlik’s driveway, then penetrated the sewer line because of gaps and
imperfections in the old-style clay piping.
The gas then migrated through a drain from the central air conditioning unit, which was dropped into the open sewer line, according to reports.
An improper seal on the line caused the air conditioner to pump the gas into the home where it accumulated throughout the Pawlik’s house, according to Wright’s report.
A match lit by Pawlik to light a cigarette for Hazel Pawlik apparently set the first explosion off, according to reports. The second explosion occurred 15 to 20 seconds later when the fire penetrated into the attic space, which had a much higher concentration of gas, according to Wright’s report.
Helicopters transported five of the six family members to area hospitals for treatment. Hazel Pawlik died several days later from injuries suffered in the explosion. Hazel Sanderson died at Parkland Memorial Hospital in July