Driver burned in St. Augustine gas station explosion being sued
State says Cowles was negligent, at fault
ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. – The state of Florida is suing the truck driver who was burned in a gas station explosion in St. Augustine last year.
David Cowles, 61, was charged with culpable negligence when he removed himself from the pump and fuel tanker he was driving, the state attorney's office said.
The Aug. 19 explosion sent a ball of fire 75 feet into the air and the resulting fire took dozens of firefighters three hours to put out.
Cowles received burns to his arms as he crawled away from the blast. Cowles spent weeks at the burn unit at Shands Medical Center in Gainesville. Cowles' attorney says the fuel company is at fault and filed suit against Coomes Oil and Supply asking for damages in excess of $15,000.
Cowles was working as a driver for Florida Rock and Tank Lines, delivering about 8,800 gallons of gasoline to a BP station affiliated with Coomes Oil.
Court documents say Cowles knew a potential overflow hazard existed, but began to offload the gasoline into the above-ground storage tanks at the gas station. Prosecutors said he "deliberately disregarded, apparently for his own comfort, his prior training, his company's published safety policies and nationally accepted safety codes," and walked away from the truck.
While Cowles was away from the controls, an overflow of gasoline in fact occurred, the documents stated, causing a fire "which ultimately completely destroyed six fuel storage tanks ranging from 10,000 to 18,000 gallons in capacity, three buildings, 13 vehicles and damaged a 14th." Total property damage estimates exceed $1 million.
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