Family of Teen Killed in Oil Storage Explosion Seeks Answers in Federal Lawsuit

 In Personal Injury

Zalee Day-Smith, 14, was sitting on an oil tank just 500 yards from her mother’s home when the tank’s battery exploded, hurling her body hundreds of yards away and killing her.

Less than a year after Zalee’s death in February 2021, her family is bringing a lawsuit against the oil company that owned and operated the tank, Urban Oil & Gas Group, LLC, based in Plano, Texas, and their insurer for negligence.

zaylee smith davis

Zaylee Smith-Davis poses on an oil rig in Ragley, Beauregard Parish prior to her death last February.

The lawsuit blames Urban Oil & Gas for not monitoring conditions at the site, not properly maintaining the tank, and not fencing off the area or putting up warning signs to make people aware of potential dangers.

According to the lawsuit, Zalee and her family were unaware that the tanks were being used.

They claim that the lack of security and safety measures at the site led them to believe that the battery was inactive and abandoned.

Whether Zalee’s death resulted from oversight or negligence, Louisiana lawmakers have taken steps to prevent similar accidents in the future.

On November 22, 2021, new safety regulations for similar oil tank battery sites went into effect. The regulations, developed by the Louisiana Office of Conservation (OOC) requires operators to:

  • Surround sites with fences at least 4 feet high
  • Enclose sites with gates that are locked when the sites are unattended
  • Securely seal tank hatches when equipment is unmanned (unless part of a pressure relief system)
  • Post signs noting potential hazards of the tanks.

The new regulations apply to all oil tank sites within:

  • 500 feet of a highway or home
  • 1,000 feet of a school or church
  • Anywhere within the limits of a city or town. 

Louisiana Commissioner of Conservation Richard Ieyoub explained that the new regulations were incited largely due to Zalee’s death.

“We may never know exactly what happened on that site when Zalee died and accidents of that kind may be rare, but we have to do what we can to minimize the chances of it ever happening again by doing more to make people aware of potential hazards and keep them off these sites if they don’t belong there,” Ieyoub said in the news release issued by the Louisiana DNR.

The Johnson Firm would like to extend our sincerest condolences to the family of Zaylee Smith-Davis. Zaylee was loved by many, and her legacy lives on to keep others safe with the legislation that she inspired.

As plant explosion lawyers in Lake Charles, we understand that these tragedies are not uncommon. If you or a family member were injured or killed in a plant or oil rig explosion, please call our firm today. We’ll work to hold the negligent parties accountable and obtain justice for your loved one.

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