SARATOGA SPRINGS A year after the dust settled from the Saratoga Springs house explosion that killed Questar employee Larry Radford and home owner April Roper, another blast brought back memories of tragedy and hope for change.
"Seeing the explosion (today) ... it made me remember and think of that day," said Greg Roper, April's husband, referring to Tuesday's explosion in Sanpete County that destroyed a mountainside home, leaving two people critically injured.
Roper, 26, watched last February as his house burst into flame following an explosion that blew furniture into neighboring yards and left only one corner of the structure standing. He rushed into the fire in a frantic effort to find his wife, who had entered the home only minutes before with Radford. It wasn't until later that day that investigators' recovered the bodies from the wreckage.
In the midst of those memories, Roper and April's parents, Lengel and David Anderson, are hopeful that this "won't happen to other people again," Roper said.
On Jan. 8, Roper and the Andersons reached a settlement in a wrongful death lawsuit that includes changes intended to make Questar's underground gas leak investigation procedures safer.
Roper and his 2-year-old daughter, Olivia, also received an undisclosed amount from Questar, Qwest Communications and three subcontractors that were working in the neighborhood for Qwest.
It's a very emotional thing because the money and proposed changes will not bring back the people that were lost, Roper said.
"When you're talking about money, that is almost insulting, but we wanted to talk about the changes (to policy)," Roper said.
Questar now gives the person that leaves the house during a leak inspection a specific list of things that must be completed before they can re-enter the home, said Tim Dunn, the lawyer who represented Questar in the lawsuit. Dunn said the company is also working on proposed legislation that will codify what contractors must do when working around buried gas lines. He said the Ropers may be asked for their support in that effort.
Roper and the Andersons filed the lawsuit last May naming Questar, Qwest and three companies subcontracted to Qwest. It is believed the subcontractors were responsible for damaging the line and causing the leak that led to the explosion. Roper said the parties reached a settlement in one day of mediation.The family "is very happy with the results," said Colin King, the lawyer representing the families. "They were good results both monetarily and, more importantly, to improve things and make changes that were badly needed. Hopefully, to prevent anything like this from ever happening again."