Family sues oil companies in ‘bog fog’ death – Melville, Nuevo Energy Co

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Family sues oil companies in ‘bog fog’ death By Janene Scully /Times Staff Writer 6-6-2001 SANTA MARIA — The family of a man who died in a Highway 101 traffic accident during “bog fog” stemming from last fall’s Harris Fire has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against oil companies on the land where the blaze started. The suit, filed last month, names defendants Nuevo Energy Company, Torch Operating Company, Torch Energy Advisors and Torch Inland Company. Also listed as defendants were truck driver Guadalupe Salas Landeras plus dozens of unnamed people. Donald Lee Thomas, 52, of Morro Bay died Sept. 19 in a Highway 101 accident north of Alisos Canyon Road. His vehicle struck the rear of a semi-truck driven by Landeras, who pulled to the left to avoid a vehicle that had been involoved in a prior accident. Plaintiffs in the case include his widow, Sherry Acree-Thomas and children, Julie Ann Thomas and Donald Lee Thomas Jr. They are represented by San Luis Obispo attorney Raymond E. Mattison. The family is seeking an unspecified amount of money in the case. The fire started in the hills above Vandenberg Village. Investigators later determined the fires were caused by privately owned power lines on oil company property. The lawsuit claims the property around the power lines was “negligently constructed, inspected, maintained, operaterd and managed.” Nuevo owns the property with Torch as the contract service company. A Nuevo spokesman said the company cannot comment on pending litigation. Fast-moving flames raced from the hills above Vandenberg Village to the hills above Casmalia, charring 11,000 acres. A naturally occurring peat bog in Barka Slough, off Highway 1 near San Antonio Road-East, smoldered long after flames were extinguished. Peat bog smoke mixed with fog created zero-visibility conditions on nearby roads for several weeks after the fire. A case management conference is set for Sept. 4 before Santa Maria Superior Court Judge Rodney Melville. :nav Source:

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