Burns are a leading cause of accidental death; in fact, only car accidents and falls cause more deaths each year. Fires or explosions are tragedies which impact not just individuals, but the communities around them, sometimes for years after the accident. What steps can those impacted by such injuries take to recover both financially and mentally? Let’s examine the example of an explosion which occurred in Indianapolis’ Richmond Hill subdivision in November of 2012 to find some answers.
Determine the Cause
For many, closure requires discovering the reason for the fire or explosion. In the case of Richmond Hill, this may have brought more anger than answers. Authorities eventually determined that the explosion at 8349 Fairfield Way was ignited deliberately by the home’s owner, Monserrate Shirley, her boyfriend Mark Leonard, and her boyfriend’s brother Bob. Shirley had recently increased the personal insurance on her home and intended to collect on the policy after it exploded. They didn’t expect the natural gas fire to destroy over thirty other homes, kill two neighbors, and injure seven more. For those neighbors, understanding how the explosion happened and why they were injured was the first step to recovery.
Shirley and the Leonard brothers were arrested in 2013 and charged with counts of murder and arson, but their trials weren’t enacted until 2015. For the two year span between, the Richmond Hill community had to move on without knowing the fate of those who had injured them. Today, save for a few vacant lots, the thirty three homes destroyed in the explosion have been rebuilt. However, some residents moved away, unable to cope with the memories. For many victims of fires and explosions, returning to real life and a feeling of safety can be difficult. Support groups for those with similar injuries or just gatherings of close friends and family can help ease a burn victim back into normal life.
Whether they stayed or left the neighborhood, all those impacted by the Richmond Hill explosion got a sense of closure on July 14 of 2015, when Mark Leonard was found guilty on 53 counts, including charges of arson, insurance fraud, conspiracy to commit murder, and murder. Monserrate Shirley took a plea deal and testified against her boyfriend during the trial. While punishing the person responsible won’t bring back the victims’ lives or restore the lost time, it does give a sense of finality to all impacted.
Have you been injured as a result of fire or arson? Every Indiana lawyer at Cline Farrell Christie Lee & Bell has experience and can help you explore your options.