OREM — Greg Roper knew a lawsuit wouldn't bring back his wife, April, who was killed last year when their home in Saratoga Springs exploded due to a gas leak.

He said he sued Questar Gas to promote change, so no one else would have to experience the "hell" he did.

"We wanted people to be aware of (the) rules," Roper said. "We wanted to see changes in gas leak procedures ... so that it doesn't happen to anyone else. I can't imagine someone else going through the same thing."

And his lawsuit worked. The Division of Public Utilities and Questar Gas Company announced a settlement Wednesday that outlines changes in safety procedures as well as additional, unbiased oversight for Questar.

The accident began when contractors in the developing Saratoga Springs neighborhood hit a gas line.

Questar was eventually called, and homes evacuated while the line was patched. But when April Roper, 24, and Questar employee Larry Radford went back into the home, presumably to relight the furnace, the home exploded.

The wrongful death lawsuit alleged that Radford didn't have the necessary tool to detect the explosive levels of natural gas that had leached into the home.

Soon after, Questar required checks to be done by several employees using a variety of tools.

Now, through the agreement with the Division of Public Utilities, Questar will provide additional "blue stake" training for third-party excavators, create and distribute bilingual, laminated hang tags instructing excavators what to do for a line break and conduct additional safety training — at costs nearing $130,000.

However, one of the most important points for Greg Roper and his attorney, Colin King, is the fact that Questar will pay $40,000 of that $130,000 toward hiring an independent, natural-gas industry expert to audit the company's current policies and procedures — especially procedures of emergency call processing and response, evacuation, scene control, gas migration and employee training.

"Questar has done a good job of standing up to the plate," King said. "Not just to pay the Roper family compensation for their losses, but to actually implement changes to make it less likely to ever happen again."

The wrongful death suit, filed against Questar, Qwest and several subcontractors, was settled amicably in January with an undisclosed amount, King said. However, it was settled with the understanding that these safety changes would be forthcoming.

"I think from the moment this emergency occurred, our primary focus was on those affected by this," said Darren Shepherd, Questar spokesman. "We were really looking at making sure the families who were affected by this were well (taken care of)."

Shepherd said company changes may continue as they are "always looking for ways to improve the way we respond to gas leaks or handle emergency situations," he said.

The settlement agreement will be sent to the Public Service Commission for a hearing to ensure all parties are in agreement, then it will become an official order. A date for the hearing has not yet been set.

Greg Roper said he appreciates the frequent phone calls from a Questar vice president about their progress.

"He's really kept his word," he said. "Some people say they'll make changes, but he's good about making the changes they've said they're going to make."


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