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2 Pipeline Deaths Draw Settlement

April 11, 2002|From Associated Press

SEATTLE — The families of two boys killed in a 1999 gasoline pipeline explosion while playing along a creek will share a $75-million settlement from the pipeline company.

The parents of Wade King and Stephen Tsiorvas said Wednesday that they will spend much of the money to fight for pipeline safety reform and other causes. Their lawsuit had been set for trial April 22.

"It's a rough day for me, despite the fact that we got $75 million, whatever that means," said Tsiorvas' mother, Katherine Dalen. "I don't have my son."

The pipeline ruptured and spilled more than 225,000 gallons of gasoline along Whatcom Creek in Bellingham near the boys' homes. The fuel exploded, scarring the landscape and killing the two 10-year-olds and 18-year-old Liam Wood, who was fishing at the time.

Wood's family settled separately with Olympic Pipe Line Co.

"We again express our deepest sympathy to the families," said Olympic chairman Lawrence B. Peck. "We are mindful of the tragic circumstances that occurred that day and are committed to ensuring that nothing resembling this incident ever happens again."

The company did not admit liability in the settlement. Olympic, its partner Equilon Pipeline of Houston and two company officials are still awaiting federal trial on criminal charges in the blast.

The families had accused the company of knowing the pipeline needed repair but deferring the work. The company also failed to fix a pressure problem it knew about, the lawsuit said.

On the day of the explosion, the company got an electronic alarm indicating a leak, which temporarily shut the line, but the company restarted the line without checking on repairs, the lawsuit said.

King's father, Frank King, said his family was disappointed there was no trial but felt the size of the settlement would serve notice "that ordinary people will no longer sit back and allow these companies to be unaccountable for their actions."

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