Family of Woman Killed in Bozeman Blast Sues NorthWestern

By Beacon Staff

BOZEMAN – The family of a woman who was killed in a natural-gas explosion in downtown Bozeman filed a wrongful death lawsuit against NorthWestern Energy on Thursday.

Tara Reistad Bowman, 36, was killed in the March 5 explosion that destroyed half a city block. Her husband, Christopher Bowman, filed the suit in Gallatin County District Court against NorthWestern and the company’s system integrity manager, Leonard Leveaux.

Attorney Mike Cok, who filed the complaint, said a crack in a threaded joint on a 2-inch service line behind Montana Trails Gallery “had deteriorated, becoming brittle, dangerous and defective,” before to the explosion. The lawsuit goes on to say that the crack allowed “natural gas to escape and enter the building,” causing the blast.

NorthWestern spokeswoman Claudia Rapkoch declined to comment Thursday, saying the company had not seen the lawsuit.

But the energy company has said it is unclear whether the crack caused the blast or was a result of it and has denied any liability. NorthWestern CEO Bob Rowe said Aug. 24 that it may never be known when the crack occurred.

Besides Bowman’s case, Cok has filed two other lawsuits making similar arguments on behalf of the American Legion Post 14 and the owners of LillyLu and Tolstedt Architects.

The latest lawsuit asks for an unspecified award for wrongful death, compensatory and punitive damages.

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