O’FALLON, Mo. — Two months after a shocking home explosion in O’Fallon, victims of that explosion are fighting for someone to take the blame.
The explosion leveled a home and damaged several surrounding homes. The miracle is that no one was hurt, but now the victims affected are being left with millions of dollars in damages, and no one to fit the bill.
“I can’t sleep at night. To know within an instance your family could’ve all been gone,” said victim Ken Stout.
Stout said more than two months after the explosion happened to his neighbor’s home on March 1, his home was also damaged in the process and is now unlivable.
“It’s been horrible. We still have no house. I mean we don’t even have a rental house yet,” Stout said.
Stout’s home, as well as several others, were damaged in the explosion — which was caused by crews who were installing fiber optics and accidentally hit a gas line. Those crews were subtractors hired under Gateway Fiber. Stout said that the subcontractor company, JDK Construction, doesn’t have enough liability insurance to cover the damages. He said their personal insurance isn’t covering the full damagers either.
“My situation is bad, but seeing other people in other situations lose their life years later still fighting to get their justice, that’s just unacceptable,” says Stout.
Stout and fellow neighbor Scott Baucum organized a meeting Friday night to inform the community about the lack of laws protecting victims. Baucum said five other similar gas line ruptures have happened since the explosion on March 1 in the same area of St. Charles County and said explosions like this happen more frequently than people realize.
“This is going to continue until all of these new fiber optic cables are in place, and it’s just getting started really, as far as what we can tell. Every community in the St. Louis area is probably scheduled for some type of installation of this type,” Baucum said.
Stout and Baucum hope meetings like these will inspire laws and change and more people across the county to speak up.
“Every time somebody’s out there that’s not properly trained, doesn’t know how to use equipment, doesn’t follow OSHA standards is going to kill people,” Stout said.
“If I was able to sit in the room and talk with [those responsible], I would just have a very simple message. Step up and take responsibility,” Baucum adds.
The Occupational safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is investigating the March 1 explosion. OSHA has up to six months from that date to complete that investigation issue citations and proposes monetary fines. Gateway Fiber has no further comment at this time.