Capt. Michael Bell of the Farmington, Maine, Fire Dept., poses for an department photo. He was killed in a propane blast on Monday, Sept. 16, 2019, that flattened a building and damaged 11 nearby mobile homes. Credit: J.P. Fortier / Farmington Fire Rescue Department

Claims filed last year in a civil lawsuit against two companies in connection to the deadly September 2019 building explosion in Farmington have been settled.

A lawsuit was filed in October 2020 on behalf of Diana Bell, personal representative of Capt. Michael Bell’s estate; his brother, Fire Chief Terry Bell; Deputy Chief Clyde Ross; Capt. Timothy Hardy; Capt. Scott Baxter; his father, Theodore Baxter; and Joseph Hastings, the Lewiston Sun Journal reported. Bell, 68, a 30-year veteran of the department, was killed in the explosion and the others were seriously or critically injured.

The suit claimed negligence by C.N. Brown Co. of South Paris and Techno Metal Post Maine in Manchester. The nonprofit LEAP Inc., which serves adults with developmental disabilities, was named a third-party defendant after the lawsuit was filed, the newspaper reported.

The suit was settled through an agreement among all parties and the case will not be brought back to court.

A separate suit filed by Larry Lord of Jay — the maintenance supervisor at LEAP who suffered burns on over 85 percent of his body in the blast — and his wife Sandra, was settled in May, their attorney, Steve Silin, of Berman & Simmons of Lewiston told the Sun Journal.

Both of the lawsuits claimed that C.N. Brown and Techno Metal Post of Maine wree “directly and vicariously negligent” through their employees, according to the Lewiston newspaper.  

On Sept. 13, 2019, Lord arrived at work on Farmington Falls Road to find there was no hot water in the building and that its propane tank was empty. Lord called C.N. Brown — which had installed the propane tank and gas line that spring — to report the empty tank, and the company sent a technician to refill the 400-gallon tank, according to his lawsuit.

That technician did not perform a pressure leak test as required under state law, failing to discover that the gas line running from the tank to the building had been severed three days earlier when Techno Metal Post installed bollards to protect LEAP’s air conditioning units, according to the complaint.

Over the next three days, gas leaked from the line into the LEAP building and reached an “explosive level.” The leak wasn’t discovered until Lord arrived at work on the morning of Sept. 16, 2019, and smelled propane upon entering the building.

Lord immediately evacuated the building and called the Farmington Fire Department. When firefighters arrived at the scene, Lord accompanied them inside the building as the gas caused a massive explosion that could be heard from as far away as Livermore, which is more than 30 miles southwest. Lord was the only LEAP employee injured.

A Maine fire marshal’s office investigation found the gas leak was caused by the posts Techno Metal Post installed to protect LEAP’s air conditioning units. Multiple fines were issued against C.N. Brown, LEAP and Techno Metal Post of Maine.