NorthWestern Energy Denies Responsibility in Woman’s Death

By Beacon Staff

BOZEMAN – NorthWestern Energy says it is not responsible for the death of a 36-year-old woman who was killed in a March 5 natural gas explosion in downtown Bozeman that destroyed half a city block.

Company attorneys, responding to a wrongful death lawsuit filed by Tara Reistad Bowman’s family, say her death was caused in whole or in part because she did not leave the premises even though the gas could be smelled. The response was filed in Gallatin County District Court.

Bowman’s husband, Christopher Bowman, sued the utility and its system integrity manager, Leonard Leveaux, in October. He says 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 says the crack allowed “natural gas to escape and enter the building,” causing the blast.

NorthWestern and Leveaux say the installation, maintenance and operation of the service line complied with the law.

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