Past Con Edison tragedy victims share pain in East Harlem explosion

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NEW YORK (PIX11) – For Carla and Joe Oza, the East Harlem explosion hit far too close to home.  In 2007, the couple’s mother was killed in an explosion resulting from a gas leak coming from a cast iron pipe.

“The text that me and my wife had together was, ‘Here it is again,'” said Joe Oza.

Wednesday the Ozas joined several other alleged victims of Con Ed negligence to send their thoughts to those affected by the East Harlem explosion.

“My heart goes out to those who have lost loved ones and those who were hurt,” said Judith Bailey who was burned by an exploding steam pipe in July 2007.

The victims are calling on Con Ed to revamp the infrastructure, including replacing century-old pipes, before another explosion occurs.

“I find it’s always after the fact, unfortunately, where there’s this reform and people feel very strongly and adamant about how do we change this so it doesn’t happen again,” said Attorney Jay Zimner.

Other victims

Zimner, who has represented corporate clients in several cases against Con Ed, says as the stories and lawsuits start to emerge from the rubble in the East Harlem explosion, courts will have to weigh in. He says judges, juries, and lawyers will look into the utility company’s internal communications to see if the company was negligent in its response and decide whether changes are necessary in the operating procedures.

“They’re going to want to know how they’re deciphering between the level of emergency and catastrophe that we saw in East Harlem versus the apartment sort of smell of a pilot light having gone out.”

Con Edison has started replacing aging gas lines, but at a rate of about 65 miles per year it could take a century to upgrade the entire city. In a statement, a spokesperson for Con Ed said, “We’re continuing to work with the NTSB to determine the exact cause of the explosion, and continue to provide assistance to displaced families to help with their living expenses.”

But for the families of the eight people who died in the East Harlem explosion, and the Oza family there’s no comfort in knowing Con Ed employees are working on the problem after a tragedy takes place.

“They gave us the okay, everything was clear,” said Clara Oza.  “We left, my children and I left the house, and before we were not even half way down the block the house exploded with her inside.”