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Sissonville Woman Says Columbia Pipeline Group Not Offering Fair Settlement

Reported by: Send eMail Kennie Bass
Videographer: Matt Durrett, Bob Aaron
Web Producer: Kennie Bass
Reported: Dec. 11, 2013 6:29 PM EST
Updated: Dec. 11, 2013 6:35 PM EST

EYEWITNESS NEWS ONLINE WEBCAST VIDEO

Pipeline Explosion Anniversary
Eyewitness News Photo

Charleston , Kanawha County , West Virginia

Margaret Johnson says the Columbia pipeline explosion was a nightmare, one that she relives every day.

"My life has changed in every possible way," Johnson said. "I still have recurring nightmares of the fireball from hell that chased me the day I thought it was going to kill me."

Johnson was home when the pipeline ruptured and erupted into a massive ball of flame. It was across Route 21 from her house, but close enough to melt the residence's siding. She burned her hand and feet trying to escape. While she did manage to escape, and save a small dog in the process, Johnson says it was a terrifying experience.

"I've had surgery on my thumb that I mangled in my car door from the heat that day," Johnson said. "I left my home that day not knowing if I was going to survive getting out of the area or not. My sons were both at work, I left without a cell phone, they had no way to contact me."

Johnson says Columbia made a settlement offer which she rejected, prompting her to file a civil lawsuit seeking damages. Both Johnson and her attorney say Columbia's assertions the company wants to take care of the people impacted by the explosion don't ring true in her case.

"They've treated her extremely poorly," Truman Griffith said. "She's not the only person that was treated poorly after this but she's the one that is still dealing with it from a legal standpoint to this day."

While many of her neighbors have settled with Columbia, Johnson says she feels trapped, and will be until she can finally move on from December, 11 2012.

"The longer that I have to remain in this state of suspended animation not knowing where I'm going to live, where I'm going to be able to afford to live, it makes it worse," Johnson said.

A Columbia Gas Pipeline spokeswoman released this statement: "It is our company policy not to comment on pending litigation, but I can tell you that we have worked tirelessly with many of the residents that were impacted by this incident. In fact, we have settled with over 85% of the claims made to date - working closely with residents to make them whole and to restore a sense of normalcy. We remain committed to doing the right thing in Kanawha County."



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