WILSON, N.Y. (WIVB) - The Johnson family has filed a lawsuit against NOCO after their Wilson home exploded this past summer, killing 14-year-old Sarah Johnson.
The day before their house exploded on July 24 in the Town of Wilson, the Johnson family smelled something they thought was propane gas, so they shut off the valve on the large NOCO tank behind their home and opened the windows.
|>> Full Coverage: See photos of the explosion, the victims, and the vigil. Listen to audio of crews learning of the devastation. Read stories about the community coming together for the Johnson family.|
The mother, Judy Johnson, called NOCO and spoke to a technical service representative who, according to the family's lawsuit, gave them a false sense of security saying "that the smell in the home was an odorant added to the gas and not actually propane gas and the reason the were smelling it was because the NOCO tank was almost empty and the odorant becomes stronger. NOCO also advised that it was not able to refill its near empty tank because the billing office was closed."
The father, Jody Johnson, didn't want to wait, and that evening he disconnected the copper line from the NOCO tank and hooked it up to a smaller, 100-pound tank that he owned, so the family could take showers and use the stove. At 6 o'clock the next morning, the house exploded.
Family attorneys claim NOCO was negligent by not coming to check out the smell the day before.
Attorney Matthew Beck said, "Had they responded correctly, Sarah Johnson would be with us today. Four members of the Johnson family would not have been seriously injured."
This civil suit seeks an unspecified dollar amount, and the crux of the case is sure to center on whether there really was a gas leak the day before or if it started after Johnson had switched the tanks.
The Johnson family is still renting a five-bedroom house that a Good Samaritan quickly made available for them after the fire.
"The family thanks the community, the firefighters, EMTs, the sheriff's office and everybody for their help and appreciates all that's been done for them to date," Beck said.
NOCO officials have not returned our calls responding to this lawsuit but they did tell News 4 in the past that the NOCO tank was not empty yet, and NOCO never advises people to disconnect tanks themselves.
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