Propane Tanks in Food Truck Blast Weren't Properly Inspected, Lawsuit Alleges

If two large propane tanks strapped to the back of the La Parrillada Chapina food truck had been properly inspected, a catastrophic explosion wouldn't have happened and Olga Galdernez, and her daughter, Jaylin Landaverry, would still be alive, a lawsuit filed on behalf of their family claims.

The suit — entered in Philadelphia civil court Monday — said the tanks were aging and damaged and should never have been refilled by staff at U-Haul on July 1, 2014. The blast killed the women and hurt nine others, including three victims who were critically injured.

"This was a bad tank that should not have been filled," attorney Alan Feldman told NBC10. "There are specific federal regulations that companies like U-Haul have to observe."

Frank Heinz
Olga Galdemez, 42, and her 17-year-old daughter, Jaylin Landaverry, pictured two years ago at the girl's quinceanera.

The tanks, which were owned by Galdernez, hold 100-pounds of propane each. She had them regularly refilled by friends at two U-Haul locations along W. Allegheny Avenue and W. Hunting Park Avenue, according to the suit. Feldman said she, like many others, would not know how to spot a bad propane tank.

U-Haul staff are required to inspect the tanks, make sure they're in good condition and ensure the valve design is current. None of those checks was done, the suit alleges.

In a statement, a U-Haul spokesperson called the explosion "sad and unfortunate," but said the company doesn't comment on pending litigation.

The explosion engulfed the entire street in a fireball and sent shrapnel flying some 95 feet.

"This was by all accounts an old tank," Feldman said. "This was not a leak, this was a rupture of the entire tank."

The assertion of a tank rupture goes against the Philadelphia Fire Marshal's determination that leaking gas seeped into the food truck as it sat parked along Wyoming Avenue in Feltonville and ignited.

U-Haul's parent company, Americo, both stores' general managers and food truck kitchen designer ERI Vending Cart were named in the suit as well. A call to the ERI Vending Cart went unanswered.

The suit seeks damages in excess of $50,000 on behalf of Galdamez's son, Uliser, and several other family members.

In the explosion's wake, Philadelphia City Council began pushing to change state law to allow local inspections of food truck propane tanks. But so far, state officials have yet to move forward with the law change.

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