Friends, Family Remember 12-Year-Old Killed in House Explosion

Nearly a year has passed and little has changed at the home on Espanola Drive in Northwest Dallas, where a natural gas explosion killed 12-year-old Linda Michellita Rogers.

Saturday, friends and family members remembered Rogers at a service at the family's church, Cristo Rey Presbyterian Church, on Northwest Highway.

It's located five minutes from the home that exploded.

The family is suing Atmos Energy accused it of gross negligence.

As a lawsuit makes its way through the court system, what's left of the house still stands in ruins – a daily reminder of the young life lost.

"Every day I look out and I see this," said neighbor Deanna Ward who still cries when she thinks of the Rogers family.

"I just feel so sorry for them," said Ward

After the explosion, Ward said she moved out of her house for a couple of weeks. Tired of staying in a hotel, she eventually returned home and lived without hot water and heat for around six weeks.

"One day the plumber would be here for about an hour then he would go to another house without finishing here. It just took a while," Ward explained.

Wednesday, Atmos Energy Corporation told NBC 5 in an email it has replaced 98 miles of pipe in the City of Dallas since the explosion on Feb. 23, 2018. The utility company says that’s 75 percent more lines replaced than 2017. The company said it also on-boarded 75 contract crews and filed plans to completely remove cast iron pipe by Dec. 2021.

The pipe running along the homes in the Rogers neighborhood was not cast iron. The pipe was made of steel. And two other homes exploded one street over from the Rogers' home days before Feb. 23.

Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins said Atmos has more work to do to replace cast iron and older steel pipe.

"These pipes are getting older, the ground is moving and we have to move to the newer pipe that is more forgiving and is not made out of metal that will corrode and weaken," said Jenkins. "We have to keep up the pressure to try to work with everyone to get the replacement expedited."

Jenkins said he's called on Atmos to bring on additional contractors, even offering to host a job fair for eligible workers. He also wants to see Atmos provide current tracking of leaks and make it available to the public.

"I'd like a real time map where you can plug in your address and see what the leaks are out there. We don't have that right now. I think if neighbors knew that, they'd feel a lot more confident in their safety," Jenkins explained.

At the state level, State Rep. Rafael Anchia filed 11 bills that aim to increase oversight of natural gas companies.

Jenkins said people concerned about the pipeline in their neighborhoods should reach out to state lawmakers and urge them to support legislation that would call for more accountability among utilities.

In northwest Dallas, Ward said she feels safer knowing the pipeline in her neighborhood has been replaced. But, believes she'll always be extra cautious.

"If I smell something that does not smell right, especially when I walk by my meter, I get a little nervous," Ward said.

NBC 5's Meredith Yeomans contributed to this report.

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