Third Puerto Rico Oil Explosion Lawsuit Filed

The Caribbean Petroleum Corp. oil explosion in Puerto Rico earlier this fall is the subject of a third class action lawsuit. According to the Associated Press, this latest Puerto Rico explosion lawsuit involves 1,000 new plaintiffs and 23 new defendants. It is seeking at least $5 million to reimburse people for damage to their homes and other losses.

The Caribbean Petroleum Corp. explosion occurred around 12:30 a.m. on October 23 at the company’s gasoline warehouse and distribution center in Catano, just outside of San Juan. According to the Puerto Rico Seismic Network, the blast produced a shock wave equivalent to a 2.8 magnitude earthquake. The explosion was so strong that it tore up a nearby highway, and shattered windows on nearby homes. Twenty-one of 40 tanks at the facility used to store jet fuel, bunker fuel and gasoline were destroyed or damaged by the fire.

The fire, which burned for nearly three days, produced plumes of thick, black smoke that filled the air with hazardous contaminants, including carbon monoxide and sulfur. Prevailing winds spread these contaminants to several areas of San Juan and adjacent municipalities, including Catano, Levittown, Toa Baja and Bayamon, exposing thousands to toxic fumes. More than 1,500 people were evacuated. Many evacuees, some of whom were suffering from respiratory illnesses, were unable to return for several days. Many businesses were also forced to close.

In November, U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB) said that a malfunctioning fuel monitoring system probably led to the massive blast. The monitor allowed one of the depot’s 40 tanks to accidentally overfill with gasoline from a ship docked in the San Juan harbor. Gasoline spilled from the tank, evaporated, spread across the facility, and resulted in a 2,000-foot vapor cloud. Once the vapor reached an “ignition source,” the blast occurred and the flames followed.

This latest lawsuit accuses Caribbean Petroleum of not training employees properly and failing to ensure that equipment was working correctly, the Associated Press said. Attorneys representing plaintiffs in this suit have requested that it and two previously filed suits be consolidated into a single case.

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