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Settlement quietly ends lawsuit over explosion burns

By Joe Beck -- jbeck@nvdaily.com

A closed settlement has ended a lawsuit by a man who suffered severe burns as a result of a propane gas tank explosion at the Shenandoah County Fair in 2010.

Lawyers for plaintiff Charles Bugarski, 32, and the defendants, Southern States Winchester Cooperative, Inc. of Stephens City and the Shenandoah County Fair Association, refused to disclose the terms of the settlement. Bugarski was seeking $2 million, accusing the defendants of negligence and carelessness in their handling of a propane gas cylinder that exploded into a fireball on Aug. 29, 2010.

"I feel very good about the outcome," said Douglas K.W. Landau of Herndon, one of two attorneys representing Bugarski.

He's an outstanding young man, hard working," Landau said. "He was in the wrong place at the wrong time," he added.

"Charles is back working and a productive member of society," Landau added.

Judge Dennis L. Hupp entered an order in Shenandoah County Circuit Court in late June, officially ending the suit.

Eric D. Andrew, attorney for Southern States, and John Zunka, attorney for the fair association, had no comment on the case.

Bugarski's complaint states he was working at the Fried Frenzy food stand at the fair with Manda Christine Rudolph at the time of the explosion. The complaint states he noticed "a displacement of the air caused by air leaking from the cylinder" and that the cylinder was near cooking equipment in the booth.

"When the plaintiff went into the booth, the propane ignited, causing a fireball," the complaint states.

Attorneys for the county fair and Southern States denied all of the accusations in court documents they filed.

Landau said Bugarski suffered burns over 30 to 40 percent of his body, including the lower legs, arms, back and face. The burns left permanent scars on all the affected parts of the body, he said.

Bugarski's lung and throat were also burned, Landau said.

Rudolph was also burned in the explosion. She required skin grafts on 80 percent of her lower legs and was listed in fair condition when she was flown to University of Virginia Medical Center in Charlottesville along with Bugarski after the explosion.

Bugarski's lawsuit cites failures by Southern States employees to properly fill the cylinder with gas and another failure by county fair employees to properly release propane from the overfilled cylinder as the causes of the explosion.

Landau said Bugarski was on a ventilator for several days after the accident and was hospitalized from Aug. 29 to Sept. 10.

He remained out of work from August until October 2010, Landau said. The cost of his medical bills reached $96,000 during that period, he added.

Landau said the scarring on Bugarski's skin leaves him unusually vulnerable to sunburn, a condition that requires him to avoid the sun, or wear special clothing designed to prevent sunburn, and apply heavy amounts of sunscreen.

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