EXCLUSIVE: Woman files suit in East Harlem blast

Tim Fleischer has the exclusive story
March 18, 2014 2:44:09 PM PDT
The first two lawsuits have been filed in the East Harlem explosion, and Eyewitness News spoke exclusively to a woman who wants Con Ed to pay.

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Michelle Nelson of East Harlem says she lives about a block away from the blast and says she smelled gas, not only in the neighborhood but in her apartment three days before the blast.

She says she was in her apartment at the time of the explosion and it knocked her to the ground, resulting, she says, in several injuries.

She and her attorney have filed suit against Con Ed and the owner of the building. They believe more attention should have been paid to the condition of the gas lines, some of which were laid more than one hundred years ago.

Nelson says she is trying to deal with her injuries.

"From the blast, shaking started, and from that shaking I fell, and hurt myself really bad. I'm in a lot of pain basically in the lung area. Breathing is difficult," she said.

"This was an accident waiting to happen. This explosion was definitely foreseeable by Con Ed. 150 year old gas line going into a building? Come on," said her attorney Michael Lamonsoff.

Nelson says she cannot return to her apartment in East Harlem as a result of the breathing issues suffered as a result of the explosion.

An attorney has also filed a $10 million notice of claim against the city on behalf of a 20-year-old high school student over the East Harlem explosion.

Jose Vargas, a senior at West Side High School, was passing the scene in a bus at the time of the explosion when he was blown out of his seat.

"The force of the explosion was so powerful that windows on the bus shattered and the claimant was lifted off his seat and thrown against the interior of the bus," the filing said.

Vargas is seeking $10 million in damages for "torn ligaments" and "torn blood vessels."

Vargas' attorney, Robert Vilensky said the city knew the gas lines were more than 100 years old and failed to maintain their upkeep.

The explosion killed 8 people and injured more than 60 others.