Con Edison Steam Pipe Explosion Investigation Should Be Monitored, Says Victim’s Family

The family of a badly burned man says that Con Edison cannot be trusted to investigate last month’s steam pipe explosion in New York City. They are asking that an independent monitor oversee the company’s inquiry into the July 18 blast that killed one person and injured many others.

George McCullough, 21, was injured after the tow truck he was driving was swallowed up by the crater created when the 84-year-old <"">Con Edison steam pipe exploded. McCullough’s truck was enveloped in a geyser of 200-degree vapor, and he suffered third degree burns over 80-percent of his body. At this time, McCullough is in a medically induced coma to ease his pain. He has undergone surgery to remove dead skin, and doctors may have to amputate his limbs.

A passenger in the truck, Judith Baily, 30, was burned over 30-percent of her body. She was released from the hospital last week.

McCullough’s family and Baily sued Con Edison for the injuries they sustained in the steam pipe explosion. Already, McCullough’s medical bills have exceeded $1 million. The lawsuit alleges that Con Edison did not properly maintain its network of steam pipes that run under Manhattan. At least three other lawsuits have been filed as a result of the explosion.

Con Edison has hired an engineering firm to investigate the explosion. But Ken Thompson, a lawyer representing McCullough’s mother, told the Associated Press that any firm paid by the company should raise suspicions. Last week, a judge granted Thompson’s request to temporarily halt the dismantling and testing of equipment at the site. Thompson said that the restraining order is meant to keep Con Edison from destroying evidence.

Through a spokesperson, Con Edison told the Associated Press that the utility is doing everything it can to assure that it gets to the bottom of the steam pipe explosion. The spokesperson said that Con Edison’s investigation will be “comprehensive and thorough”.

The Con Edison steam pipe exploded at 5:47 p.m. at East 41st and Lexington Avenue. Forty people were injured in the blast, and one person died of a heart attack while fleeing the scene. The explosion left several city blocks closed for days. The pipe that ruptured was part of 105-mile network that Con Edison uses to heat and cool Manhattan buildings. Some of the pipes in that system are as much as 100 years old.

The pipes in the Con Edison system have a history of trouble. The McCullough lawsuit alleges that 12 steam pipes have exploded since 1987. In 1989, a Con Edison steam pipe blast in Gramercy Park killed three people and contaminated the neighborhood with asbestos. Con Edison ended up paying more than $50 million dollars to settle claims relating to that explosion.

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