Suit Filed Over Moss Point Explosion


A Moss Point man whose wife was killed in a house explosion last year has filed a $10 million lawsuit against the city and a private contractor.

Willie Harris filed the suit in Jackson County Circuit Court.

The suit, which represents only one side of the legal argument, alleges contractor Theodore Richardson changed out the natural gas appliances with all electric appliances, but failed to cap off the natural gas pipe in the attic of Harris' home.

An Aug. 24, 2000 explosion and fire killed Harris' wife, Syvil, and seriously injured Willie Harris, his stepdaughter Shermenida Irving and her son, Desmine.

The suit claims a city employee went to the home with the intention of turning off the natural gas and water of a neighbor of Willie and Syvil Harris for nonpayment of gas and water bill. The water was turned off. Harris said the natural gas had been actually turned off since the conversion from gas to electric appliances seven months before.

Harris, upon realizing there was no water at his home, notified the city and a worker turned on the water and the gas. The suit states that the attic of the Harris home filled up with natural gas pumped by the city and when Mrs. Harris lit a candle a few hours later, the home exploded.

Harris said the city failed to exercise reasonable care and failed to implement proper procedures for the position of hazardous materials to its customers.

``I was hired to install, not remove. Mr. Harris disconnected his own (gas) heater. I installed the new electric heater. I don't know who removed the gas hot water heater,'' Richardson said Monday.

This is the second lawsuit filed in response to the explosion. A neighbor, Adell Kimbrough, filed the first suit in May. She is seeking $500,000 from the city because of medical problems she suffered after the explosion. Kimbrough said she was in her front yard when the explosion occurred.