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Plumber sues Tampa Electric after gas explosion

A plumber was injured in a gas explosion while working at a job site in Tampa.
A plumber is suing Tampa Electric Co. after gas explosion. Pictured is TECO Plaza in Tampa, where both Tampa Electric and its natural gas sister company TECO Peoples Gas System is located. [James Borchuck | Times (2017)]
A plumber is suing Tampa Electric Co. after gas explosion. Pictured is TECO Plaza in Tampa, where both Tampa Electric and its natural gas sister company TECO Peoples Gas System is located. [James Borchuck | Times (2017)]
Published Jul. 22, 2020

TAMPA — A plumber is suing Tampa Electric Co. and its sister company after a gas line exploded and injured him.

According to the lawsuit filed in Hillsborough County circuit court, Anthony Gavin was working for a subcontractor in early March at a job site in Tampa. While he was in a 4-foot hole in the ground attending to underground water lines, a gas explosion happened, causing him to be “engulfed in flames.” The incident caused “severe and painful burns and injuries.”

“Prior to the ... gas explosion, Mr. Gavin was never made aware that the gas was not turned off,” the complaint said.

Gavin alleges that before the explosion happened, Tampa Electric worked on the gas lines around the area after being asked to by DPR Construction, the company that hired Gavin’s employer to subcontract. Tampa Electric’s sister company, TECO Peoples Gas System, is a natural gas utility.

Both Tampa Electric and DPR said they do not comment on active litigation. Bernhard MCC, Gavin’s employer, did not return requests for comment.

Gavin said Bernhard and DPR told him to work in that area but should have known that gas is explosive and hazardous. He blamed Tampa Electric for failing to maintain its gas lines.

The job site was two blocks from Ulele near downtown Tampa.

Gavin, the lawsuit said, suffered disfigurement and disability. He had to pay for hospitalization and is unable to work. He is asking for a jury trial and damages.

TECO Peoples Gas System came into the spotlight last year for an explosion in Broward County that injured 23. The blast was initially thought to have come from a gas explosion. While the company said it didn’t find any gas leaks in its system, firefighters said there was a ruptured natural gas pipe.

TECO Peoples Gas System is the state’s largest natural gas utility and serves 390,000 customers. It is owned by Emera Inc., Tampa Electric’s parent company.