The family of a man killed in an explosion at Hogrefe Auto Parts in November 2017 has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the Napoleon company.
A civil lawsuit was filed in Henry County Common Pleas Court Dec. 18 by Emily Belcher, administrator of the estate of the late Jeffrey A. Keehn, against Hogrefe Auto Parts, LLC, and seeks recovery in excess of $25,000.
The lawsuit lists Belcher as Keehn’s daughter and alleges Keehn’s death was the result of negligence by Hogrefe Auto Parts, owner/operator Gary Hogrefe and manager Donald Reynolds.
The lawsuit alleges the business, Hogrefe and Reynolds were negligent in maintaining safe working conditions and providing proper training and protective equipment and failed to ensure the gas tank was removed or drained from the vehicle Keehn was working on that day.
The lawsuit states Keehn’s next of kin sustained monetary losses including medical, funeral, burial, internment and estate expenses, as well as the loss of Keehn’s services and society. It seeks $25,000 in damages, plus reasonable attorneys fees and costs, prejudgment interest and punitive damages.
Earlier this year, the Ohio Fire Marshal’s Office ruled the cause of the fatal fire and explosion was accidental, stating Keehn was working at the salvage yard that day cutting off parts from a vehicle. The report states gasoline leaked from the vehicle, causing a cloud of vapors, which were ignited by sparks created by the cutting torch on metal.
A witness to the explosion, Jeremy Zachrich, was at the site picking up roll off dumpsters of scrap metal and had seen Keehn working on the vehicle earlier. Zachrich grabbed a fire extinguisher after the explosion and rushed toward the scene in an attempt to find the victim. However, the fire was too large for him to fight with an extinguisher. Zachrich then called 9-1-1, and the police and fire departments responded.
The coroner’s ruling on the official cause of death was thermal body burns and smoke and soot inhalation.
A toxicology report detected levels of painkillers in the urine, but the coroner stated they were not exerting an effect at the time of the incident. A metabolite for cocaine was also detected in the urine but no analysis was provided by the coroner.