Bar Owner Sues NorthWestern Over Bozeman Blast

By Beacon Staff

BOZEMAN – The owner of a downtown Bozeman bar has filed the seventh lawsuit against NorthWestern Energy over a deadly March 5 natural gas explosion.

Ralph Ferraro’s Rocking R Bar was heavily damaged by the blast and ensuing fire that destroyed half a city block. He filed the lawsuit in Gallatin County District Court on Wednesday, alleging the utility company and Leonard Leveaux, NorthWestern’s manager of gas system integrity, knew or should have known that pipes in the downtown area were old and susceptible to cracking.

Lab tests on the service line leading into Montana Trails Gallery, where the explosion was triggered, determined that the line was cracked at some point on March 5. But NorthWestern officials have repeatedly said it is unclear whether the crack was a result of the explosion or the cause of it and have denied liability or negligence.

Company spokeswoman Claudia Rapkoch said Thursday she could not comment on pending litigation.

The American Legion, LillyLu, Tolstedt Architects, Pickle Barrel, Rocky Mountain Rug Gallery and the family of the woman who was killed in the blast also have sued the energy company. Tara Reistad Bowman, 36, was the only person to die in the explosion.

Ferraro’s lawsuit is the first to specify monetary damages. He is seeking $4 million.

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