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Sun Prairie business owner has mixed feeling about findings in explosion investigation

SUN PRAIRIE (WKOW) — There are mixed feelings from at least one business owner in Sun Prairie over the findings of the investigation into the deadly explosion that killed firefighter Cory Barr and injured several others in July.

Patrick DePula owns Salvatore’s Tomato Pies, just a block from the explosion site. The building the shop is in was damaged in the explosion and subsequent fire.

In terms of the findings of the investigation, DePula said there are a lot of layers involved. The report states that Verizon contracted with Bear Communications for the fiber optics cable project that included work at the intersection of Main and Bristol streets. Bear first subcontracted with Jet Underground to accomplish the actual construction. Prior to performing work, Bear changed subcontractors to VC Tech. VC Tech presided over the over the fiber installation project.

“My first reaction is looking at the layers of companies that are involved and how many people were involved with working on the fiber optics end of the street for the infrastructure. It seems that the more people that are involved, the more likely there is the opportunity to make mistakes and have accidents happen,” DePula said.

He said the company actually doing the digging should be the one that pulls the permit.

“The way that it’s set up currently is possibly making it likely for things like this to happen in the future. The constant coordination between multiple companies working on one project.”

“How much training all these people getting? That’s the question that I ask. How much training is the individual getting that’s doing the diggers hotline, if you will? Which is basically USITT. How much experience do they have? What kind of certification programs are there? And again it goes back to how many layers were involved in this whole incident,” DePula said.

After the explosion, DePula was forced to close his restaurant for three weeks.

“Dollars lost? Probably $200,000 I would say. Between damages, wages, loss income. Closing this restaurant took away probably 68% to 70% of the income that our company brings in,” he said. “The real impact for us, even more so than just financial, is having employees be idle for three weeks.”

While he has mixed feelings about the results of the investigation, DePula hopes the tragedy will help lead to changes in the industry.

“I think that I’m neither happy nor upset about the outcome. I am left with the thought that the way the industry works needs to be changed. And I think that’s what we should all focus our energy on, again to prevent this from happening in the future.

DePula said just because there’s no criminal liability, it doesn’t mean there’s not civil liability.

On Thursday, three civil lawsuits were filed in relation to the deadly explosion.

According to court records, Abby Barr, the widow of Capt. Cory Barr, filed a wrongful death lawsuit against VC Tech, Bear Communications, USIC Locating Services and WE Energies.

Two other firefighters, Ryan Welch and Greg Pavlik, have filed personal injury lawsuits against the same companies. Welch and Pavlik were both hurt in the explosion.

One thing DePula hopes the conclusion of the investigation brings is closure for everyone affected.

“I think that the community is never going to forget. For as long as people are alive that were here during the events of that night, it’s a long going to be remembered. But I think that this will give the community a little bit of closure and the ability to move forward with whatever next steps are necessary,” he said.

David Johnson

Reporter, WKOW

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