1 year after gas explosion, neighbors waiting for Piedmont help - WTVM.com-Columbus, GA News Weather & Sports

1 year after gas explosion, neighbors waiting for Piedmont help

NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) -

It's been one year since a Piedmont Natural Gas line burst in Bordeaux, causing an explosion that put a community in danger. At least one home, a local business and a church were damaged.

Now, victims of the explosion are speaking out with serious accusations against Piedmont and its insurance company.

The Rev. Fred Matthews, pastor at The Church of Jesus Christ on Clarksville Pike, says it's only been by the power of prayer his congregation has made it through the past year.

"Here is where one boulder came through. We're still doing some work," Matthews said, touring the church.

A 16-inch gas line exploded Aug. 2, 2012.

"It has gone from three weeks to over a year where I'm dealing with this nightmare," Matthews said.

Matthews is one of several explosion victims now claiming Piedmont and its insurance company, Liberty Mutual, aren't working with them to fix all that was damaged that day.

"When it first happened, at the very beginning, they said, 'Whatever you need, we're here to help,'" Matthews said.

Matthews says he received a letter from Piedmont a month after the blast, taking responsibility for it. The church's insurance company assessed the damage and repairs were made.

And after the congregation spent five months outside of the building, they moved back in January. But there are new problems.

"It's actually constant water flowing 24 hours right through the parking lot into that stream," Matthews said, showing a faulty water pipe outside the church.

The church's insurance won't cover this repair, and now Matthews says Piedmont and Liberty Mutual won't respond.

"I've never gotten a call back. I've never had any responses," he said.

It's the same sentiment next door at Jordan Auto Sales near Clarksville Pike and Courtney Avenue.

"I called Piedmont Natural Gas, and they never even called me back," said Mashhoor Ayoub, who owns the used car business that was pummeled by concrete blocks.

"All these cars got damaged. I ended up getting personal loans to buy another inventory, and that set me way, way back," Ayoub said.

Ayoub claims $11,000 in damages to the cars' windows alone. He said 20 cars were totaled, 17 others damaged and 12 had to be cleaned up.

Ayoub said he only had liability insurance on the cars, so he is stuck with the bill.

"Their supervisor came to me and he said, 'We're sorry about the damage. It's an accident.' Which, I understand it's an accident. And he said, 'I'll take care of it as soon as possible,'" Ayoub said.

Nine months after the explosion, Ayoub said he finally got a response from Piedmont's insurance with a settlement amount.

Based on his own calculations, he estimates there is $95,000 in damage on the car lot, and he said Piedmont offered him just over $30,000.

And now, he says, no one will call him back.

"The settlement was so low, it was ridiculous. I tried to tell them," he said.

Nearby resident Lee Anthony had two dogs killed in the blast.

"They got hit in the head. I was hurt over it, but there was nothing I could do," Anthony said.

Anthony said Piedmont sent him a check for the dogs immediately, but he had trouble when it came to his own injuries.

His ears, he says, were hurt in the blast, but Anthony said Liberty Mutual argued the injuries were pre-existing.

In June, he hired a lawyer and a settlement was reached last month.

But the man who owns Anthony's house is still fighting.

"They come into a neighborhood and tear it up, they need to fix it," said homeowner Steve Pelham.

Pelham said he's hired a lawyer to settle roof damage.

Channel 4 News asked Piedmont to talk on camera about this story, but a representative instead sent an email, saying in part:

"We are working with our insurance carrier to make restitution to those who experienced property and/or personal injury damages."

Piedmont went on to say it has "closed" 50 percent of claims filed by victims but would not say how many claims have been filed.

"I'm praying that they will respond just out of common decency. I'm not trying to make any profit or anything. I just want the damages fixed. I want things repaired," said Matthews.

A representative from Liberty Mutual Insurance said he couldn't comment on the claims.

In an earlier investigation, the Channel 4 I-Team talked to a Piedmont spokesperson, who said the Bordeaux gas line that exploded had been inspected within the six months prior to the blast.

A separate I-Team investigation found another Piedmont gas line in Antioch exploded despite routine inspections.

Copyright 2013 WSMV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.

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