Lawsuit by family of man who died in Tacoma gas explosion

The family of Charles McDonald, a truck driver who died when a propane hose leaked and caught fire while he pumped propane from his truck into Atlas Foundry Limited Partnerships tanks, filed a wrongful death lawsuit in superior court Tuesday. They allege that Atlas Foundry employees didn’t use proper clamps when they helped McDonald reattach a disconnected hose before he began pumping the propane.

McDonald’s body was mostly burned by the first of two explosions. He took cover near a metal shed before the 8,000-gallon truck blew apart, propelling an axle hundreds of feet in the air in a massive burst. Additionally, pieces of metal rained down on people nearby. Covered in black soot, employees ran from the fire.

Four people besides McDonald were injured. McDonald was found by medics behind the shed two hours later and airlifted him to Harborview Medical Center. The 64-year-old died Oct. 16.

“The negligence of the Atlas Foundry employees led to the initial release of propane gas that rapidly enveloped Charles McDonald,” said John Christensen, the family’s lawyer. He faulted the employees for using clamps not meant for high-pressure propane.

According to the Seattle Post Intelligencer, Atlas Foundry’s president declined to comment on the clamps until state and insurance investigations were finished, but he said it was McDonald’s responsibility to tag the hose if it wasn’t working.

Both parties are waiting for the results of a state Department of Labor and Industries investigation, expected next month.

“One of the reasons we filed the wrongful death suit is to talk to the Atlas employees on oath,” Christensen said. “We can’t talk to Charles to know what he saw or said, so unfortunately we can only hear from one side what happened.”

He said McDonald had a good safety record and had been handling propane deliveries for several years. The Vancouver resident had been a truck driver for eight years.

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