Press-Register (Mobile, AL) - October 13, 2007
Author: DAVID FERRARA, Staff Reporter

Wife tells of explosion that killed husband

BAY MINETTE - Lawyers representing the family of a Daphne man killed when his water heater exploded rested their case Friday, as his widow described watching her husband die.

The second week of what is expected to be a three-week wrongful death trial in Baldwin County Circuit Court closed after Michelle Krantz told about the horror she faced July 1, 2005.

Her husband, Richard Krantz, had gone to the water heater in their garage that morning because he couldn't get a warm shower.

Though the home in Stratford Glen subdivision was only a few months old, the family already had encountered troubles with the water heater, and Michelle Krantz had called for repairmen to fix it.

The Krantzes' attorney, Joseph M. "Buddy" Brown, has suggested that the heater's valve had been clogged and wasn't working properly. Lawyers for A.O. Smith, the company that built the water heater, have pointed to a cracked foundation that allowed gas from an underground pipe to seep into the garage.

The suit is against A.O. Smith and their representatives who worked on the appliance days before the blast.

Two other defendants in the case have settled for $1 million each, and the trial will resume again Monday with defense witnesses and could continue through the end of next week.

After Brown questioned Michelle Krantz, A.O. Smith defense attorney Don Carlson asked her mostly about her past, and tried to assure her that he was genuinely concerned with her husband's death.

"We are really trying to figure out what happened here," Carlson said.

Michelle Krantz said she was rattled awake by the blast that shook the family's 2,400-square-foot home, and immediately called for her husband.

She bolted out of the bedroom and stepped through the dining room, toward the garage.

"I ran up to him, picking my way through glass on the floor," she testified.

She glanced out the window, she said, and noticed "a whole neighborhood of people running toward the house."

Bleeding and burned over 90 percent of his body, her husband had stumbled into the kitchen. She put her arm under his, trying to hold him up and guide him outside.

"He was just like rubber," she said.

He had cuts all over his body, his face red, his hair fried.

"We had to get outside," she said. "I thought we were all in imminent danger of being killed. I still could hear that roaring noise."

She was afraid to go back into the house and screamed for their two young children. She wrapped her husband's leg and hands with a towel.

Neighbors rushed to help.

Inside, emergency officials and investigators have testified, the home was ravaged. Walls buckled; the ceiling popped six inches off the framing. The blast shot the metal garage door 40 yards into the middle of Carousel Court.

Doctors first told Michelle Krantz that her husband would only be in the hospital for a few weeks, and she grew hopeful.

But the news quickly worsened. She said doctors told her that her husband wasn't responding to treatment. He was barely alive.

Over the next few days, Richard Krantz's heart rate would flutter when family and friends came to visit, but drop again when they left him alone with doctors.

"He knew when we were there," she said. "It was so horrible."

A doctor called her at 6 a.m. July 4. She needed to get to the hospital right away "because he had taken a turn for the worse," she said.

She was with her husband when he died the next day.

Lawyers Involved: