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|Employee Is Injured in Hotel Blast Who Then Files Suit
By Lonce Lamonte - February 8, 2024
Karen Mayte Lopez Ontiveros, 28, an employee at the Sandman Signature Hotel in Fort Worth, Texas, has filed a law suit in response to an on-the-job accident which resulted in injury.
The suit was filed on Feb. 1st 2024.
Nearly a dozen other hotel and restaurant employees are taking action against the Sandman Hotel Group, its owner Northland Properties, and the Musume restaurant which is located in the hotel’s lower level.
Lopez Ontiveros, an employee injured in the early January 2024 explosion, said management knew employees had concerns about a gas leak hours before the blast.
On Jan. 8th 2024, the explosion at the Sandman Signature Hotel shook downtown Fort Worth at approximately 3:30 in the afternoon. Three employees were initially reported as injured, all of whom worked at Musume, an Asian restaurant inside the hotel. At the time, Josh Babb, one of the restaurant’s founders said on social media that the restaurant was closed at the time and that no customers were injured. Part of the building fell into the basement and scattered debris along Houston Street.
“All of us at Musume are devastated,” he said, noting that all of the injured were treated for burns, lacerations and concussions, and were in stable condition.
Lopez Ontiveros was working in the kitchen of the restaurant when the explosion happened. She and others, as expressed in the filing, started to smell an effluvium being emitted like rotten eggs and experienced a burning sensation to the eyes. The employees told management about the smells, suspecting a gas leak, the lawsuit said.
The employees were not told to evacuate, the suit expressed. Lopez Ontiveros decided to quickly finish a final task before leaving for the day as she was concerned for her safety and was anxious to leave. Before she could leave, suddenly a blue flame ignited. The hotel floor above her fell down upon her.
“She was violently thrown in the explosion, gravely injured, and trapped beneath the building,” The Kelley Law Firm stated in a news release. Then, she was trapped beneath the building. The suit says she is currently intubated and in a medically induced coma with a low chance of survival.
The suit states Lopez Ontiveros suffered six broken ribs, punctured lungs, kidney lacerations, a shattered right arm, was burned over almost a fourth of her body, and sustained blood clots in her legs. She also sustained injuries to her upper back and lower extremities.
Allegedly she has undergone several surgeries and skin grafts, leaving her with doubts about her survival. The lawsuit states further that she will need additional surgeries.
The defendants were negligent and failed to adequately respond to a gas leak that had been ongoing for some time, it is reported in the suit.
Lopez Ontiveros is seeking a jury trial and more than $177 million to cover her medical expenses, lost wages, and damages.
The suit also said Musume, the restaurant, and the hotel with its ownerships, had control over the determination to evacuate the restaurant, and acted negligently when they disregarded the employees’ concerns, imposing an “unreasonable degree of harm… to employees, customers and patrons.”
While the Fort Worth Fire Department said initially the explosion was caused by a natural gas leak, officials recently said natural gas company, Atmos, had found no indication its systems were involved in the explosion when it completed its assessment of the pipeline outside the hotel. Fire officials said they remain confident that natural gas was involved, and would transition its investigation to the inside of the building.
“Mrs. Lopez Ontiveros did what any honorable person would do in showing up on time, working hard, and doing all that she could to be good to her employer and the people they serve,” her attorney Kevin Kelley said in a news release. “To be rewarded with companies who lacked the care of giving her notice that her life could be in danger is unacceptable...”
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