Updated: June 25, 2020 10:42 AM
Created: June 23, 2020 10:19 PM
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — With the 4th of July right around the corner, many people are gearing up to celebrate. In Roswell, however, the holiday is a painful reminder of the loss of one of their own.
Last year, a huge explosion injured 12 firefighters and left one dead as they were preparing for the city’s annual fireworks display. Roswell firefighter Jeff Stroble, 46, passed away a few days after the incident.
Now, some of those who were injured are looking to hold someone responsible for that explosion.
A lawsuit filed Tuesday in Chaves County District Court alleges that the city put those firefighters in harm’s way. It also claims that the company that sold the fireworks did not do enough to warn them of potential dangers.
According to the document, a dozen firefighters were moving cases of fireworks from storage to a city building June 5.
Firefighters were attaching "e-matches" to the fireworks when one ignited and exploded. The suit is representing the wife of Jeff Stroble and seven other firefighters injured that day.
The suit accuses the city of Roswell of putting those men in danger. According to those documents, the fire department asked the city to hire professional contractors, but the lawsuit said the city "utterly disregarded the consequences" by requiring the fire fighters to do it anyway, despite the lack of qualifications.
The fireworks company is also in hot water. Flying Phoenix is based out of Wyoming. It’s the company Roswell bought those fireworks and "e-matches" from.
According to the suit, the company failed to provide "adequate direction and instructions” and “warn the firefighters about possible risk."
The New Mexico Professional Firefighters Association also weighed in and said the accident should have never happened:
“While coming together as a community to watch fireworks is a way to honor our country’s founding and is also fun for many of us, city officials throughout New Mexico need to have plans in place for who will handle these explosives. Firefighters are not trained in pyrotechnics -- and I will do everything in my power to make sure we never see anything like the incident that occurred last July happen again.
This year, Governor Lujan Grisham has called for a ban on all fireworks sales in New Mexico. Given the ongoing health risks of public gatherings and the far too limited resources that firefighters have at their disposal, I believe that such a ban would make for a safer Independence Day holiday for everyone.”- Robert Sanchez, President.
KOB 4 reached out to the city of Roswell about the lawsuit and a spokesperson replied and said the city does not comment on pending litigation. KOB 4 also reached out to Flying Phoenix fireworks and never heard back.
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