State Investigation Reveals Unodorized Propane Tanks in Fatal Norfolk Explosion

According to the recently released report of the Massachusetts State Fire Marshal, the Norfolk condominium explosion that killed an electrician in July, 2010 was caused by a leak of unodorized propane gas.

William Nichols, a 46-year-old electrician from Blackstone, was one of the workers in the condominium at The Village at River’s Edge when it exploded on July 30. He was buried under burning debris for more than ninety minutes before he was pulled alive and conscious from the wreckage. Mr. Nichols died that evening at Brigham & Women’s Hospital in Boston from his massive injuries. Seven other people were injured in the blast.

State investigators called this a case of “odorant fade,” which results from underfilling of a new propane tank. Industry safety standards specify tanks should be filled 80 percent. EnergyUSA of Taunton only put 200 gallons in the tank providing propane to the condominium.

Workers at the scene had no warning there was a propane leak. The leaking gas contained no ethyl mercaptan, a strong odorant which is added to propane to allow for its detection. Without this additive, propane is odorless and undetectable.

Boston attorney Marc Breakstone, who represents the Nichols family, stated that ‘these reports describe in painful detail the danger of a leak of unodorized propane gas into the environment. This was a tragedy which could have been prevented if industry safety standards had been followed.”

Click here to read the state report about the explosion. Read more about the case in:


The Boston personal injury lawyers at Breakstone, White & Gluck represent individuals injured in residential and commercial construction accidents, as well as motor vehicle accidents and transportation accidents. If you have a case, contact us at 617.723.7676 or use our form.