August 6, 2008

Family of Plum Man Killed in Gas Blast Files Suit

By Bobby Kerlik, The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Aug. 6--The family of a man killed in a Plum house explosion has sued the borough, the gas company and two businesses.

Antonio and Tina Pettinato filed the lawsuit Tuesday on behalf of Richard J. Leith, who was killed in the blast, and their daughter, Gianna Pettinato, who was thrown more than 50 feet and suffered a broken leg.

Leith, 64, of Penn Township was killed March 5, when the natural gas explosion destroyed the Pettinato's home at 171 Mardi Gras Drive. Leith was baby-sitting his granddaughter.

"Gianna is doing OK. Physically she's coming along, but mentally she still has a way to go. She wants to know, 'Where's Pappy?'" attorney Alan Perer said. "It's a miracle she wasn't killed."

The lawsuit names Dominion Peoples Gas Co., Inc., Dominion Resources, Inc., Plum Borough, Kevin Higgins and his Apollo-based Higgins Plumbing, and W. Scott Lea III of W.S. Lea General Contracting, also in Apollo.

Kevin Higgins was unaware the lawsuit had been filed and declined comment. Plum Manager Michael Thomas and a spokesman for Dominion Peoples also declined comment.

Lea could not be reached for comment.

The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating what caused Dominion's 2-inch steel gas line to crack and why the home exploded. The pipe, which was installed in 1961, passed a May 2007 inspection.

Perer said the NTSB has not issued its report.

Perer has not yet filed a complaint providing details of any claims because he said he needs additional time to subpoena records from agencies. He said work done by contractors several years ago could have nicked the gas line and caused the crack.


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