NBC 4 New York
They watched their homes go up in flames during super storm Sandy. Now more than eight months after the storm, those residents want LIPA to pay. Andrew SIff reports.
About 120 home owners from the tight-knit Queens enclave of Breezy Point that was devastated by fires during Sandy are suing two utility companies for negligence after the storm.
A lawsuit filed Tuesday in state Supreme Court in Queens says the Long Island Power Authority and National Grid failed to stop energy from flowing to their homes despite industry standards during emergency weather events.
Home video of the devastating fires, taken by firefighter Kieran Burke, was also released Tuesday. Burke was off duty that night, but went out to try and save neighbors -- and record history with an underwater camera.
"I figured if anything happened to me, they'd find it in the water and they'd know what I was doing."
Hannah Sweeny, a 77-year-old grandmother who is among the dozens of plaintiffs, said she's lucky to be alive.
"I'm telling you, I never saw anything so fast. I looked down the street, and the restaurant and five houses -- they had to be 200 feet in the air of flames," she said.
The lawsuit says the fires that destroyed about 150 homes were caused because the utilities did not de-energize the system, allowing wires and circuits to come into contact with flood water. It says the utilities knew at least since Hurricane Irene in 2011 to de-energize the system.
Keith Sullivan, an attorney for the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, which is seeking $80 million in damages, said, "This wasn't a freak accident. This wasn't an act of Mother Nature. This was a choice by National Grid and LIPA to not de-energize."
Spokeswomen for the two utilities said in separate emails their companies' responses were appropriate and the lawsuit's claims were without merit.