Copiah County propane explosion: 4th person dies, lawsuit filed

Published 3:30 pm Thursday, January 25, 2024

A fourth person has died as the result of a Jan. 14 gas explosion in Copiah County. Thursday, attorneys for the families announced the filing of a lawsuit on behalf of the victims.

On Sunday, Jan. 14, a gas explosion at a Wilderness Road home claimed the lives of Loyd Star Attendance Center student and football player Toler Jordan, age 14; his cousin 18-year-old Houston “Bubba” Jordan, a 2023 graduate of Reading Nook Academy and former Brookhaven Academy football player; and 43-year-old Calvin “Benjy” Jordan, father to Bubba and uncle to Toler.

In a press conference Thursday, attorney Benjamin Wilson of Morgan & Morgan and attorney Douglas Mercier announced a lawsuit has been filed in Copiah County on Wednesday, which names as defendants Herring Gas Company and two of its Hazlehurst employees.

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

“Specifically, we believe that the propane tank was improperly inspected, installed, as well as the propane gas improperly installed … the night before the incident,” Wilson said.

The suit results to “negligence and recklessness on behalf of the named defendants,” Mercier said. “This type of thing does not occur by nature … but by human failure.”

The tank was filled on Saturday night around 7 p.m. and the explosion occurred Sunday at 2 p.m., Mercier said. When the accident happened, the three Jordans were outside with another man — identified by Mercier as Jeremy Mitchell — and four women were inside the home. They were Benjy’s wife Mitzi, their daughter Maggie, Mitchell’s wife, and another woman.

“When the explosion occurred, everybody went outside as soon as they could,” Mercier said. “Mitzi and Maggie began beating out the flames of their loved ones as best they could. They sustained severe burns themselves (but) they were unsuccessful.”

The suit contends that Herring Gas and its employees were directly responsible for the explosion and therefore should be accountable for its consequences.

“This was the type of accident that could have been prevented and should not have occurred,” Mercier said. “Herring Gas advertises it is a safe organization (and) its employees are safe and knowledgeable … that is not the case.”

Mercier said the attorneys’ investigation has shown the reality to be “quite the opposite,” with the company having a high rate of employee turnover, and untrained or poorly trained employees.

“The fact that this event occurred the day after the night the propane tank was filled is very telling,” said Mercier. “According to Herring Gas’ own website, their employees are responsible for testing and connecting the tank to the house. (They are) also responsible for taking safety measures to fill, to inspect, and to maintain the tank.”

“Here, we believe the tank may have also been overfilled, which contributed to or caused the explosion (and) the tank may have leaked previously,” he said. “We do know that there was no odor, that there was no indication that this explosion was going to occur.”

“Our complaint is based off of facts,” Wilson added. “The complaint speaks for itself … it lays out the specific details (and) our claims.”

The complaint states, “The explosion was a result of an ignition source contacting an LP gas release at or around the propane tank and its lines and valves at the Property, which was caused by the Defendants.”

The defendants are being sued for negligence, breach of warranty, and willful and/or negligent infliction of emotional distress. The claim asks for damages and punitive damages.

“If you can image your spouse, your child, on fire, your father, your brother, on fire, trying to save them — those are mental scars that won’t heal. Not just that, but Mitzi and her daughter Maggie will have scars on their arms from the burns forever,” said Mercier. “This is horrific. Three members of the same family, because of an act that could have and should have been prevented. We are hoping to bring justice for the family members. They want this type of accident to never happen to another family.”

Wilson concluded by saying, “There are people responsible for this, and we will hold those people accountable.”