Recovery still underway from Chandler strip mall explosion - SanTan Sun News SanTan Sun News

Recovery still underway from Chandler strip mall explosion

August 31st, 2022 SanTan Sun News
Recovery still underway from Chandler strip mall explosion

By Ken Sain
STSN Managing Editor

A year after a gas explosion shook west Chandler, there are signs that life is moving on. But for some, the blast at the Platinum Printing shop in Sunset Plaza was a life-altering event.

“When you look at pictures of the blast, it’s amazing that anyone walked away from that,” said Thomas Ryan, a lawyer representing three of the four victims of the Aug. 26, 202, explosion.

The Sunset Library reopened after being shut down for months to repair damage to its western wall and ceiling. Sunset Plaza’s owner has demolished the wreckage and started rebuilding that wing of the shopping center. And the four victims are still dealing with the injuries they suffered that day.

“The good news is they’re out of the burn trauma unit,” Ryan said of his three clients, brothers Andrew and Dillon Ryan and their friend Parker Milldebrandt. 

The lawyer said they spent between 10 days and a month in that unit. 

“They’re all still receiving various degrees of therapy,” Ryan said. “They will never be able to reconstruct the Platinum Printing business again.”

The three men and their families filed a lawsuit on April 14 against more than a dozen companies because of the explosion and the impact it has had on their lives. Thomas Ryan said the two sides are scheduled to meet in November in hopes of reaching a settlement.

Andrew and Dillon, who owned the shop, can never work as printers again, he said. 

“It’s a very physically demanding industry,” said Thomas, pointing out printers need to move heavy loads of paper to load them on the press. “This has really changed their lives.”

The lawyer said that his clients have to be careful of the sun because they are now much more susceptible to skin cancers. As burn victims, their skin has less elasticity, making it harder to move around. 

“All things considered, they’re doing the best that they can with the limitations that they have,” Thomas said. “They are blessed to have their spouses to help them get through this.”

The fourth victim was Glenn Jordan, who worked in an eyeglass repair shop near the printers. A message to the sponsor of his GoFundMe page asking how he was doing was not returned.

Nick Dedona, a senior association with Phoenix Commercial Associates, said they began clearing debris at the site in February. He works for the company that is leasing space at Sunset Plaza.

Construction is currently underway while Dedona looks for new tenants. 

He said they are creating vanilla shells, as opposed to gray shells. In construction, that means instead of a complete blank slate that a new tenant can do whatever they want with, it will have some basic functions, such as bathrooms, built in. That should lower the start-up cost for a new business.

The debris sat untouched for months after the blast. Dedona said that was because they had to wait until the investigation was complete, and then the insurance company did its own investigation.

 “It’s about 10,100 square feet of space available,” Dedona said. “The gas line has been completely replaced. It was shut off for months after the blast.”

An investigation found a leak from a Driscopipe 8000 was to blame for the explosion. That pipe has had other problems, and has been scheduled to be replaced. However, Southwest Gas officials reported an accounting error kept it from being replaced in this case because it was misidentified.

Thomas Ryan said he’s hopeful they’ll be able to reach a settlement with the 13 companies they are suing when they meet in November.

“The other side has admitted that it was the natural gas that caused the explosion,” he said. “I remain hopeful that we can come to an accommodation and get this done.”