Update: Suburban Propane reacts to lawsuit alleging they were negligent in propane explosion

Bay Area man suffered burns on his feet, face

PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. - A night grilling burgers nearly turned deadly for one Tampa Bay area man after he said a propane line exploded engulfing him in flames

Wiktor Sondej said he was just about to light the grill and throw the food on when in an instant he was on fire.

“It was a huge boom, huge,” Sondej said. “I was so scared I thought I was dying. It blew up and it was, everything on fire, the carpet was on fire, the towel was on fire, my shirt was on fire it pushed me back five feet or so.”

Sondej said he and his wife Zita recently moved to Pasco County. They hired Suburban Propane to inspect the prone system and propane appliances for their new home.

According to a lawsuit filed against Suburban Propane, Sondej had a a technician come out in September of last year to inspect the propane for their new home. The lawsuit alleges the technician told them the “propane gas system at their home was safe to operate but suggested that the roots growing around the main valve for the propane tank should be cleaned.”

A month later, Zita Sondej said she called the company to report a strong odor of gas. She said a technician came out and told her, she just had a low tank that needed to be filled. The lawsuit said the “technician proceeded to fill the propane tank with approximately 60 gallons of propane and advised Zita Sondej to turn the propane gas valve for the outdoor off when they were not using the grill just to be safe.”

Wiktor Sondej said the technician never did a property safety check and it almost cost him his life.

“Maybe they should ask more questions,” Sondej said. “Luckily, I am alive. It could end up much worse. I’m happy I can be here with family.”

The Sondej family attorney told ABC Action News the company was negligent in their safety checks. Peter Sartes said the fire department ruled the cause of the explosion was from a faulty corroded valve.

“They are known to corrode and they are known hazards for explosion and they’ve known this since 1996,” Sartes said. “The U.S. Consumer Product Safety sent out an alert.  So, when the propane company came and inspected their house the first time they should’ve known the supply line underneath his grill, is of the type that should’ve been changed, it’s a simple change.”

Suburban denies that the consumer product alert has anything to do with the Sondej’s gril. 

“The fact that the Sondejs’ claim is inaccurate and the connector was not of the type that was the subject of the CPSC guidance was previously communicated to the Sondejs, through counsel, long before your broadcast and article,” Paul L. Nettleton an attorney for Suburban Propane said via e-mail after ABC Action News aired its original report.  “Suburban Propane further denies all other aspects of the broadcast and article that suggest the company was in any way responsible for corrosion of the Sondejs’ grill or the accident.”

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