No decision on Deep Rock Tunnel trial location

Local News

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) — There was no decision on whether or not the lawsuit surrounding a man injured during an explosion while working on Fort Wayne’s Deep Rock Tunnel project will be moved out of the county.

According to court documents, 31-year-old Tyler Tompkins was injured back in April when a boring machine exploded and “piping and/or piping fragments forcefully struck Tyler” while he was more than 200 feet underground. Now Tompkins and his wife Claire are seeking monetary damages for his injuries, court costs, and any future relief from Herrenknecht Tunnelling Systems, USA, Inc. and Shambaugh & Son.

Monday, attorneys met in front of an Allen County judge to argue why the court case should or shouldn’t be moved out of the county.

Shambaugh & Son’s attorney argued that its client would not receive a fair trial if proceedings were to stay in the county due to the ‘extensive’ media coverage surrounding the incident. He said that due to the coverage, it will be hard to find residents that did not carry a bias toward the case. He also argued that the company was not the manufacturer of the machinery.

Tompkins’ attorney argued that the statements made in media reports were facts. He also argued that the case should stay in Allen County due to the fact the plaintiffs reside in Allen County and it would be difficult for Tompkins, in his current condition, to attend a hearing in another county.

The attorney for Herrenknecht Tunnelling Systems was impartial to the move.

Attorneys for all parties had no disagreement that Tompkins suffered injuries and the seriousness of those injuries.

Also discussed during the hearing was IOSHA’s safety compliance inspection into Tompkins’ employer, Lane Construction Corporation, which showed that the company had created hazardous conditions that did not comply with Indiana Code. Lane Construction is not listed in the lawsuit.

Also not listed in the lawsuit is the city of Fort Wayne.

The Deep Rock Tunnel project involves boring a five-mile tunnel through bedrock under the city to divert sewage away from rivers and directly to the wastewater treatment plant. The project began in 2018 and is expected to be complete in 2023.

After hearing both sides of the argument the judge ending the hearing without making an order. His decision could take anywhere up to a week to a month.

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