Family of Chase Bank Worker Killed in Explosion Files Lawsuit

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – The mother and sister of the Chase Bank employee killed in the May 28 explosion at the Realty Tower have filed a wrongful death lawsuit.

Named in the lawsuit are the companies that own and manage the building, a company that was relocating utilities in its basement and the gas companies.

Akil Drake, 27, was working at the bank, which was on the Realty Tower’s first floor, and died in the explosion.

No dollar amount is specified for the damages sought in the lawsuit filed by Traesha Danyiel Pritchard, Drake’s sister, and his mother, Sharnette Crite-Evans. The suit was filed over the weekend in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court.

It lists as defendants Yo Properties 47 LLC, the property owner; LY Property Management LLC, GreenHeart Companies LLC, East Ohio Gas Co., Enbridge Elephant Holdings, Enbridge Alternatives Fuel LLC, Enbridge Pipelines Inc., Enbridge Genoa U.S. Holdings LLC, Enbridge Inc., Enbridge Gas Distribution LLC, Dominion Energy Questar Corporation and Dominion Energy Inc.

Akil Drake (Penn Hills School District)

“We express our deepest sympathy to the family of Akil Drake,” an Enbridge spokeswoman said in an email. “Enbridge Gas Ohio does not comment on ongoing litigation.”

Representatives for the other defendants couldn’t be reached to comment Monday.

The explosion also injured several others and displaced the residents of the building’s 23 apartments who haven’t been able to reenter to get their belongings since that day.

The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the incident. The city last week contracted with a Cleveland structural engineering company, Barber & Hoffman, Consulting Engineers, to assess the building. That work started June 7.

The scope of services provided under the agreement will include determining if the structure presents an imminent public danger from collapse and the safety of removing debris, Mayor Jamael Tito Brown said. The firm also will determine whether the building is safe for inspectors from the National Transportation Safety Board to continue its work there.

GreenHeart was contracted by Youngstown to relocate utility lines, including gas lines from the basement and vault of the building.

A natural gas line that had been abandoned but had gas in it was cut before the explosion, according to preliminary information from the NTSB. Why the abandoned line was pressurized is part of the investigation.

“On or about the time of the subject explosion, no one on the crew who were present were aware that one of the pipes and/or service lines defendant GreenHeart’s crew was working on was pressurized and/or failed to consider the information they had been provided regarding the fact that the service lines were pressurized,” the lawsuit says.

After cutting the line, the workers smelled gas, evacuated the basement, alerted bank employees, activated the building’s fire alarm and helped to evacuate residents, an NTSB member has said.

The explosion occurred about six minutes after the pressurized line was cut.

The lawsuit says Drake was “injured and trapped and unable to escape from the Realty Tower. Mr. Drake endured pain, suffering, and terror for an extended period of time prior to succumbing to the injuries caused by the explosion and passing away alone and afraid.”

It contends that because of the “dangerous character of utility line relocation work that was being done on its premises, at all relevant times YO Properties owed Akil Maurice Drake a nondelegable duty and is therefore responsible for the acts [of] any independent contractor it hired to perform this dangerous work.”

The lawsuit claims the gas companies were negligent in “failing to properly advise, warn, and communicate with the contractors working on” Realty Tower “to ensure the safe handling of utility gas lines” and “about the dangers of cutting gas lines before checking whether or not those lines were pressurized.”

Pictured at top: A Chase Bank sign is seen hanging from the damaged Realty Tower in downtown Youngstown after the May 28 explosion.

The lawsuit can be viewed below.

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