Heartbroken husband files $20 million lawsuit after wife is killed in home explosion

Heartbroken husband files $20 million lawsuit after wife is killed in home explosion
Deadly house explosion in Tech Terrace neighborhood (Source: KCBD)

LUBBOCK, TX (KCBD) - The husband of the woman killed in the March 27 house explosion in Tech Terrace shared his memories of the event that killed his wife, as he and his attorney announced a wrongful death lawsuit on Monday.

45-year-old Dr. Rodica Gelca was struck by a compressed gas canister and killed as she was fighting the fire from the initial explosion.

Her husband, Dr. Razvan Gelca, was also seriously injured in the blast.

"It was of enormous pain to see that when I stood up. she did not stand up and to find her next to me a few feet away in the state she was, I hoped they would be able to bring her back to life," Razman said, "but, no."

Their neighbor, 72-year-old John Fleming, was killed in the blast. His wife, Candace Chase, was seriously injured and is still in serious condition in the hospital. The lawsuit is seeking $20 million from Chase.

According to the lawsuit, the Gelcas saw bright flashes coming from their neighbors' house and the house was engulfed in flames. The lawsuit says the Gelcas grabbed a water hose to slow the spread of the fire when a large explosion happened at their neighbors' home. A gas cylinder flew from the house, striking Rodica, killing her. Razvan was also struck by flying debris. After the fire, multiple large gas cylinders littered the neighboring yard.

The lawsuit says Chase and Fleming were hoarders and self-proclaimed inventors and their property was littered with rubbage.

The lawsuit alleges that Chase and Fleming were negligent for keeping highly-flammable and hazardous materials at their house.

The lawsuit seeks damages for the wrongful death of Rodica, as well Razvan's personal injury damages.

"My client lost his wife, and he was also seriously injured in the blast," Inderman said. "We want answers, and we want to hold the appropriate individuals and organizations accountable for their actions."

According to our research, John Flemming owned the home and ran the business E2Amm LLC out of the home. The company manufactures hydrogen and ammonia modules. At this time, authorities have not said if the chemicals in the home caused the explosion.

Chad Inderman, of Glasheen, Valles & Inderman said they're filing this lawsuit now because of evidence preservation issues and to exercise subpoena power to begin their own investigation, to find out who the suppliers were for various products found at the scene and to be able to file open records requests to get the results of investigations from the city and ATF.

Inderman identified John Fleming as the main person in this investigation, but said there are "a lot of entities and people, including Ms. Chase, that were very much involved with his fuel research, and a lot of his supposed scientific endeavors."

"If this man was truly a scientist, why was he conducting these type of experiments with ammonia, nitrogen, hydrogen, and flammable materials in Tech Terrace," Inderman said. "We're going to find out what Mr. Fleming was doing and who his associates are and what they were doing."

Razvan Gelca shared memories of his wife, saying "Two weeks ago we were some of the happiest people around. I think she was the perfect match for me and I think I was the perfect match for her. We wanted to defend the house when we saw the fire, because we had touched every single piece of it with our hands."

When asked about his reasons for going forward with the lawsuit, Razvan said, "It's the least I can do for her."

Razvan said he had no suspicions about things going on next door.

"I was not aware that things were dangerous, otherwise I would have behaved differently," he said. "I am not the kind of person who looks over the fence."

Inderman said there are Texas codes about storing ammonia and reporting requirements.

"The first thing we need to figure out is exactly what was there and in what quantities, and then we need to figure out who knew that it was there, not only what governmental agencies or levels of government knew, but who the suppliers were, who the related entities with Fleming and his companies were. He claims to have associations with former professors and he claims to be an engineer although he's not licensed. There's so much investigation to do."

"I think it's going to be a six-month to one year process to get all the answers," Inderman said.

Razvan also shared his memories from the night of the explosion.

"We were trying to stop the fire, which actually advanced very fast. I experienced the explosion myself. I was a few feet away from my wife. The power of the blast was enormous. It was an enormous pain to see that when I stood up, she did not stand up and to find her next to me a few feet away in the state that she was."

"I had hoped that they would be able to bring her back to life, but...no. I think they did everything they could, but she was just too badly injured."

Razvan has considered moving away, but he said, "All my good memories are in there. I can see her touch and her spirit in every single object in the house, so I think I want to live there. It is heartbreaking because it still looks like a war zone."

"I was very fortunate that I had so many friends who took care of the house even before the insurance company did it. It was so much labor and so many of the people who were close to us came there and did all they could to make it inhabitable. Now, it has some of the spirit it had before. I will try to make it look exactly the way it was before my wife died.

Razvan said he has a few broken bones, but that he didn't really feel the physical pain.

"I have four broken bones that were fixed with pins and plates, but I can't even think about it. I just can think about my wife."

"After they did surgery, I didn't even take painkillers. They tell me it's because I have this mechanism of fighting pain that they sometimes have in the war. I just didn't feel the pain because of the pain in my heart."

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