Civil trial underway for M’s Pub fire explosion

WOWT 6 News Live at 6:30
Published: Feb. 15, 2022 at 7:32 PM CST
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - For the first time in six years, those impacted by the explosion and fire in the Old Market have their day in court.

Tuesday’s testimony came from an expert from Texas on utility markings. The judge will decide who is to blame and what percentage will they pay.

The Old Market fire in January 2016 started with an explosion. Minutes before that, a number of people inside M’s Pub smelled gas and so did those who lived above the restaurant.

“I smelled a leak and ran to my neighbor’s door,” said a neighbor in 2016.

Firefighters have said they could have stopped the fire if not for the constant fuel source. The gas kept pouring into the basement of the historic building.

After first hearing about the flames, it took Metropolitan Utilities District crews an hour and a half to turn off the gas.

Is that acceptable?

That’s one of the questions the district court judge will examine.

Remember this, the state fire marshal ruled the Minnesota digging crews hit a natural gas line in front of M’s Pub while putting in 5G fiber and that M.U.D. did not adequately mark the gas lines on the sidewalk above.

In court Tuesday, a utility expert from Texas questioned M.U.D.’s method for marking the gas line. The gas line, with two yellow dots a little bigger than a quarter, saying in his opinion, the worker violated a standard of care.

On cross-examination, attorneys for M.U.D. explained that yellow dots are acceptable for marking gas now according to the fire marshal, the official change took place three years after the explosion.

The same utility expert also agreed the digging company had taken shortcuts when it hit the gas line.

The civil trial is expected to last two weeks.

It’s a bench trial so District Court Judge Timothy Burns will decide who is to blame.

After his decision, there will be another trial to determine damages.

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