Fayette County

Four men who lost their hearing and suffered other injuries in UPS explosion file lawsuit

Four Central Kentucky men who were injured in an explosion at a UPS facility in Lexington last year have filed a lawsuit against the company that owned the acetylene cylinders that they say caused the blast.

The lawsuit filed Thursday in Fayette Circuit Court alleges that Praxair Inc. was negligent “when it filled, sealed, loaded on pallets, and otherwise prepared for transport the acetylene cylinders” involved in the blast, which occurred May 30 at the UPS Freight facility on Blue Sky Parkway.

Eight people were taken to the hospital after the blast, which also caused significant structural damage to the UPS vehicle maintenance building.

An attorney representing the four men and their wives says they suffered injuries included hearing and vision loss, “gashes on their bodies and faces” and “severe, ongoing anxiety.”

“Our clients were healthy, active men doing their jobs when their lives were upended by a traumatic and damaging explosion that has left them with lifelong injuries,” the men’s attorney, Shea Conley, said in a statement. “We believe this explosion and our clients’ resulting injuries were wholly preventable. Praxair had a responsibility to protect against and prevent this kind of foreseeable blast, and we allege that they neglected their duty to take the proper precautions.”

A Lexington fire investigator said after the explosion that a propane torch set off the blast and likely ignited acetylene gas released from the tanks.

The four men who filed the lawsuit, Craig Combs, David Hatton, Vincent Leger and Stevie Fitch, were all UPS employees who were working at the garage when the explosion occurred.

According to the lawsuit, Praxair was using UPS to ship 45 cylinders of dissolved acetylene, which was inside a trailer in the garage when the explosion occurred.

The suit says the blast, caused by acetylene being released from one or more of the cylinders, left Combs, Hatton and Leger with significant hearing loss in both ears and Fitch with significant loss of hearing in his right hear.

Combs, of Richmond, also sustained lacerations to his face and knees and a gash on his head, and Leger, of Berea, also suffered vision loss, trouble with balance and anxiety. Fitch, of Georgetown, also suffers from anxiety as a result of the explosion, the suit states.

The lawsuit asks for punitive and compensatory damages and says the men have incurred medical expenses, lost earnings, permanent disfigurement and mental anguish as a result of the incident.