Sandy victims sue LIPA after electrical fires consume homes, businesses

Posted at 10:46 PM, Jul 02, 2013
and last updated 2013-07-02 22:46:05-04

ROCKAWAYS, New York (PIX11) – In parts of the Rockaways and Breezy Point, it was not Sandy’s tidal surge that took down homes.  Instead fierce fires burned down those homes.

“Salt water combined with electrical system caused sparking and fires erupted everywhere, it was an absolute inferno,” said lawyer Keith Sullivan.

A steadfast staple on Beach 130th street for more than 30 years, The Harbor Light Pub burned to the ground.  For owner Billy Heeran, it is still tough to see the empty space where his pub once stood.

“I think everybody is still in shock about this. 9 months later, we’re still like this.  Just the foundation left here,” said Heeeran.

While there was talk around town that power companies were going to shut off the electricity.  It never happened.

But if it did, Heeran says, “It would definitely have prevented the fires that happened.”

Nearby Rockaway resident Hannah Sweeny agrees.  50 yards down the street from the pub, she was inside her home the night Of the storm when she went to the porch to check on the rising flood waters.

“I look down the street and the restaurant and houses up to there, were in flames, had to be 200 feet in the air. Oh my God,” Sweeny said, holding her hand to her mouth as she remembered that moment on October 29th, 2012.

That is why Sweeny and Heeran are two of 120 residents suing LIPA and National Grid.  Their lawyer Keith Sullivan says the companies are fully responsible for the damage caused by the fires to the tune of at least $80 million.

“Both companies knew the industry standard was to de-energize the communities and they failed to do that.  They chose to take the less safe path for these residents,” said Sullivan.

That path, Hannah says, cost her, her Rockaway home of nearly 40 years.

“It was all ashes. I’m thinking maybe I can find something. But there was nothing.  37 years.  Gone.”

LIPA sent a statement to PIX 11 saying, “The actions taken during Sandy were reasonable and appropriate, and we do not believe the claims [in the lawsuit] have merit.”