Coomes Oil sued by victim of gas explosion

Historic City News has learned that a personal injury lawsuit was filed September 23rd by Stuart N. Ratzan, a Miami attorney, on behalf of David Hunt Cowles — the man who is lucky to be alive after his involvement in the August 19th gasoline explosion at the BP station on SR-16 at Masters Drive.

Summons and plaintiff’s first interrogatories were served Friday on J. B. Coomes in that matter that will be heard in Circuit Court before Judge J. Michael Traynor in CA 11-1553; the case of David Hunt Cowles vs. Coomes Oil And Supply Inc., located at 8 Hartshorn Street in St. Augustine.

Cowles, the tanker truck driver for Florida Rock & Tanklines, was delivering approximately 7,800 gallons of regular gasoline and 1,000 gallons of premium gasoline to Coomes’ above-ground storage tanks when the explosion occurred.

Cowles claims in his complaint that Coomes Oil violated state and federal regulations by not having “a functional fuel measuring gauge, flame arrestors, a vapor recovery system, and a proper alarm to warn against and prevent overflowing”.

In a television interview with the Jacksonville FOX affiliate, Cowles, seen bandaged from head to toe, recovering from third-degree burns, said he could not find the required functional tank gauge to measure the storage capacity in the tank.

He said he asked a gas station clerk for help, but the clerk could not locate one either.

Cowles said he called his employer and explained the situation. He claims that he was assured a Coomes Oil employee told them there was “sufficient room” left to unload.

Tragically, as Cowles was refueling Coomes tanks, gasoline started spewing out, flooding the surrounding area and emitting dangerous petroleum vapors into the air. The explosion that followed changed Cowles life, forever.

Cowles was the only victim in the explosion that rocked the neighborhood and sent flames and black smoke high enough to be seen for miles away.

Photo credits: © 2011 Historic City News archive photograph

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