Family of Fire Captain Killed in Maine Blast Hires Lawyer

The family of Michael Bell, the Maine fire captain killed in a September propane explosion in Farmington, has hired a lawyer to represent them after the incident.

This week, attorney Steve Silin of Berman & Simmons, based in Lewiston, released a statement confirming that.

"Right now, we are working with experts in an effort to gain a more complete understanding of how this tragedy happened," Silvin said in the statement. "We can then determine how best to hold those responsible accountable as we pursue justice for the family and the community more broadly. It's still early in the process. Berman & Simmons, with its unmatched combination of resources, experience, and expertise, is uniquely qualified to successfully handle this kind of complex case."

While the law firm would not comment further, Jeff Thaler, a professor at the University of Maine's School of Law, familiar with similar cases and the group, says he thinks the Bells' lawyers will try to answer critical questions related to the explosion.

"What happened, what was he chain of events that led to the explosion, what did people know, when did they know it, related to the propane leak," he said.

Eventually, Thaler says, the Bells could file a civil suit against one or more of the companies that did work on the LEAP building in Farmington, in which Bell died and the other firefighters were injured.

"They would be seeking monetary damages," he said. "How fast the lawsuit and the family will be able to move will depend on what the investigation shows."

Bell's brother, Farmington Fire Chief Terry Bell, was among the seven other people hurt in the blast.

Right now, there are multiple ongoing investigations into the blast.

OSHA announced this week that it's inspecting at least three companies connected to the destroyed building, including one that dropped off propane just days before the explosion.

Meanwhile, the Maine Fire Marshal's Office are trying to figure out how that propane ended up in the building's basement from a tank outside.

The Bells' lawyers' work could go beyond that to build the fastest path to a suit should there be one.

"The law firm will be more prepared and more ready to act faster," sad Thaler.

If there is a lawsuit, the timing of its filing remains unclear.

Thaler doesn't believe that would occur until after the conclusions of Maine state investigators is released.

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