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Wife of worker severely injured inside Deep Rock Tunnel project files lawsuit

Tyler Tompkins graphic
Photo provided: Tyler Tompkins
tyler and claire tompkins
Photo provided: Tyler and Claire Tompkins

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WPTA21) - The man who was hurt while working on Fort Wayne's Deep Rock Tunnel project site earlier this year is suing the contractor and boring machine supplier for damages.

According to Tyler Tompkins' attorneys, he suffered a severe traumatic brain injury that rendered him physically and mentally incapacitated.

The suit filed in Allen Superior Court lists Herrenknecht Tunnelling Systems, USA, Inc. and Shambaugh & Son, L.P. as defendants.

Tompkins' wife Claire Tompkins, who serves as his legal guardian, filed the lawsuit on his behalf.

On April 16, the suit says Tompkins was working in the tunnel more than 200 feet underground when a pipe on the tunnel's boring machine --nicknamed "MamaJo" -- exploded.

ABC21's Digging Deeper team previously reported in April that Indiana Occupational Safety and Health Administration (IOSHA), the contractor, Salini Impregilo/Lane Construction, reported an "incident involving hospitalization" on April 17. However, IOSHA could not confirm any further details.

DIGGING DEEPER: Worker injured on ‘Deep Rock Tunnel’ job site

Tompkins' family hired an outside consultant to inspect the tunnel following the incident.

The expert believed the explosion happened because of defects in the design and manufacturing of the tunnel boring machine (TBM).

“Our investigation revealed that this explosion was entirely preventable,” said Fort Wayne attorney Robert Boughter of Boughter Sinak, LLC, who, along with attorney Stephen Wagner of Wagner Reese, LLP, is representing Tompkins and his wife Claire in the lawsuit.

“These parties failed in their duty to protect Tyler and other workers in the tunneling operations. They failed in their duty to ensure the TBM and its systems were safe to use on this project. We are determined to help Tyler and his family get justice and to prevent other workers from suffering a similar fate.”

A Shambaugh spokesperson provided this statement: “We at Shambaugh share our sincere sympathy for Mr. Tompkins and his extended family. That said, as this is now a matter of ongoing litigation, we do not intend to comment further.”

The suit is seeking monetary damages to compensate Tompkins for his injuries, court costs, and any future relief that could come from this lawsuit.

The Deep Rock Tunnel project is the largest public works project in the history of Fort Wayne. City officials say the tunnel will reduce the amount of sewage overflow into the surrounding rivers.

Officials expect the tunnel to be operational in 2023.

You can read the full lawsuit here:

Kayla Crandall

Kayla Crandall is an Emmy award-winning journalist. She serves as the Social Media and Digital Content Manager at WPTA. Follow her on Twitter @KaylerJayne.

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