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Originally published February 20, 2008 at 12:00 AM | Page modified February 20, 2008 at 12:07 AM

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Driver's family sues over fatal Tacoma blast

The family of a man who died after the fiery explosion of a propane truck in Tacoma's Nalley Valley in October has filed a wrongful-death...

Seattle Times staff reporter

The family of a man who died after the fiery explosion of a propane truck in Tacoma's Nalley Valley in October has filed a wrongful-death lawsuit against Atlas Foundry.

The widow, daughter and son of Charles McDonald filed the lawsuit Tuesday, alleging the foundry was negligent because employees had improperly replaced a clamp on a propane hose, allowing the gas to escape and explode, according to the complaint.

McDonald, 64, died Oct. 14 after he crawled away from the blaze into a nearby metal shed, where he remained for two hours until discovered by emergency medical crews. He was airlifted to Harborview Medical Center, and he died more than a week later.

The incident started Oct. 6, when McDonald, driver of a delivery truck for IXL Transportation Services, was fueling one of two tanks on the foundry property at 3021 S. Wilkeson St.

According to the complaint, McDonald was burned over 75 percent of his body.

Fifteen minutes after the initial explosion, the entire propane truck — loaded with 8,000 gallons of liquid propane — exploded. The blast sent parts of the truck flying onto Highway 16, shot a fireball hundreds of feet into the air, shattered windows, knocked out power in the entire industrial area and injured three other workers.

Atlas President Duane Britschgi said Tuesday he had not seen the lawsuit yet, but he said it was not a surprise.

"We were all devastated by the accident that took Charles McDonald's life, and continue to express our condolences to his family," Britschgi said. "It was a horrible day for Mr. McDonald, his family and all of us at Atlas ... . The investigation is ongoing, but we are confident that the facts will show Atlas is not responsible for Mr. McDonald's death."

The state Department of Labor and Industries is investigating the explosion and its cause but has not completed a report.

"My father loved spending time with his family and friends. He had so much compassion for others," said his daughter, Leeann McDonald, in a statement issued by the law firm, Messina Bulzomi Christensen of Tacoma. "This has been such a devastating loss for our family. It's hard knowing how much pain he went through before he died."

Nancy Bartley: 206-464-8522 or nbartley@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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