Lawyer plans to hold utility accountable for explosion

By: Chris Jackett, | Royal Oak Review | Published March 12, 2013

ROYAL OAK — Developments from the house explosion at 4232 Cooper continue as neighbors slowly returned to their homes on the surrounding streets last week.

Stuart Sklar, an attorney representing the family of Daniel Malczynski, who was killed, believes the cause of the Feb. 27 explosion was a boring drill rupturing a gas pipe while a trio of Consumers Energy employees were working to replace a gas main on Cooper earlier the same day. Consumers Energy said in a press release the day after the incident that “a gas service line to the house was damaged and was the possible cause of the explosion.”

The house exploded at 5:06 p.m., killing Malczynski, 58, and damaging 30-35 nearby residences with a blast heard 3 miles away.

 Firefighters and Consumers Energy employees chat Feb. 28 among the wreckage of the house that exploded on Cooper Feb. 27. It was less than 24 hours after the explosion shook the neighborhood and killed 58-year-old resident Daniel Malczynski.

Firefighters and Consumers Energy employees chat Feb. 28 among the wreckage of the house that exploded on Cooper Feb. 27. It was less than 24 hours after the explosion shook the neighborhood and killed 58-year-old resident Daniel Malczynski.

Photo by Donna Agusti

“We want to know what happened, why it happened and how it can be prevented in the future,” said Sklar.

Malczynski was a retired General Motors employee who had worked at the GM assembly plant in Lake Orion while putting three daughters through Royal Oak schools. He lived alone and is suspected to have been asleep when the explosion occurred, officials said.

In a March 7 release, Consumers Energy reiterated how they were helping the surrounding neighbors to move forward.

“We have performed extensive gas safety testing in the area as residents returned to their homes on Friday and Saturday (March 1-2),” the release said. “Employees tested for the presence of gas in and around homes, made sure appliances were relit and operating, and pressure-tested the customer-owned fuel lines of each home to help allay residents’ concerns.

“A team of employees met with residents and businesses in a wider area around the site, identifying any concerns and offering additional safety testing. We have reached out to the Royal Oak school district offering safety training and educational programs for students, teachers and administrators.”

Additionally, Consumers Energy has suspended all boring projects throughout the state and is reviewing and validating standard operating procedures before resuming boring operations.

Sklar said Consumers Energy’s boring team nearly drilled into another pipeline a few houses down from Malczynski’s house, coming within an inch of hitting it and causing a second potential incident the same day.

Dodd said she could not comment beyond the press release.

“We’re going to reconvene at the scene,” Sklar said, noting that legal action could be on the way. “We intend on taking the appropriate action to hold Consumers Energy accountable, yes.”

The Michigan Public Service Commission, National Transportation Safety Board and local authorities continue to investigate the explosion.

In light of the incident, several people who were on site assisting neighbors immediately after the explosion were honored with framed certificates at the Royal Oak City Commission meeting March 4, including James Greenway, Kate Sikora, Nicholas Sikora, Christopher Chase, Carl Vargo and Oakland County Sheriff’s Office Detective Sgt. Greg Glover.

To avoid similar incidents in the future, Consumers Energy encourages residents who smell a “rotten egg” odorant to immediately call them from a safe location at (800) 477-5050.