NorthWestern Sued Again for Deadly Bozeman Blast

By Beacon Staff

BOZEMAN – A rug store owner whose building was significantly damaged by a deadly natural gas explosion in downtown Bozeman has sued NorthWestern Energy.

Jalal Neishabouri, owner of Rocky Mountain Rug Gallery, filed the lawsuit in Gallatin County District Court on Friday. He says the utility company’s inability to shut off the flow of gas for several hours fed a March 5 fire that damaged thousands of his imported rugs.

Neishabouri’s two-story building also was significantly damaged by the concussion and blaze, which killed 36-year-old Tara Reistad Bowman and destroyed half a city block. He claims the energy company and its system integrity manager, Leonard Leveaux, knew the 70-year-old threaded service line was likely to become brittle and was dangerous, but NorthWestern neglected to replace it.

Rick Burt, NorthWestern’s director of community relations, declined to comment Monday. He said it was company policy not to comment on pending litigation.

NorthWestern has previously denied any liability in the explosion, saying there was nothing to indicate that the service line had been installed improperly or was defective.

Bowman’s family and three other businesses — American Legion Post 14, Tolstedt Architects and LillyLu — have also filed lawsuits against the energy company.

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