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$1M Civil Suit Blames Dominion East Ohio, EZ Access for 2010 House Explosion

In the days before 2022 West 83rd exploded, crews from Dominion East Ohio came out to disconnect and seal the gas line in the house. They reported they could not shut off the gas coming into the house from the street though, because the tool they needed was "too short." Around 2:30pm on January 25, 2010, the gas ignited, the house blew up and the shock wave was felt for blocks. Nearly 70 properties were damaged including the home of next door neighbor Bill Calderwood.

Bill Calderwood: So I got about half a block away, the neighbor down the street grabbed my dog and says check on your house, give me your dog. I come down here and I was still about 5 houses down and I looked and my front porch is gone.

But soon investigators charged Calderwood with the crime. A jury later found him guilty of stealing appliances and copper from the house, but not of intentionally blowing it up.

The case took another turn Friday, when the insurance company for a family-owned company named DuWest Tool and Die filed an unusual suit in Cleveland Municipal Housing Court. The manufacturer is within 500 feet of the epicenter.

In the suit, the Cincinnati Insurance Company says DuWest sustained over a million dollars worth of damage and lost business from the explosion. The suit blames Dominion East Ohio for failing to stop natural gas from flowing into the house.

A Dominion spokesman says the company doesn't comment on pending litigation.

The suit also blames the home's owners, EZ Access Funding LLC, and asks Housing Court Judge Raymond Pianka to declare not only the former property but the company's business practices public nuisances.

Other items in the complaint are jaw dropping. For instance, the suit describes how Michael Alexander, who founded EZ Access, faked his own death for insurance claims in 1986. And the year before starting the company, a federal judge banned Alexander's partner Marc Tow from offering or selling any securities after a SEC investigation into a stock scheme. Here in Cleveland, EZ Access owes over $1.6 million dollars in housing court violations on dozens of properties.

Alexander and Tow did not return calls and emails requesting comment. Mhari Saito, 90.3.