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Surprises in dock explosion civil trial

 

JENNA-LEY HARRISON

Staff Writer

 

A defense attorney shocked the courtroom Friday by requesting to introduce never-before-seen evidence into an ongoing civil trial involving the death of a Denver teen.

Attorney John Holden angered Judge Forrest Bridges by asking if he could introduce a document into evidence that both he and the plaintiff’s attorneys knew nothing about.

Holden also wished to obtain a witness testimony via live video.

The family of Nathan Coppick is suing Holden’s client, Petroleum Equipment and Services Inc., for installing illegal nozzles on gas pumps at Hobbs Westport Marina in Denver that they said contributed to their 19-year-old son’s death at the site in 2008.

Coppick had been refueling a yacht when it exploded at the dock, and the particular type of nozzle he was using — automatic-closing and with a hold-open latch — is banned by the state. PES officials said they didn’t know about the law before the blast.

Bridges, who perceived Holden’s ploy as a pre-planned strategy to sway the court in the trial’s last days, denied the defense’s request, but not without calling the attorney a “bald-faced liar.”

“It should have been introduced beforehand,” he said.

Bridges also implied a sanction against the defense, prohibiting the document and a supporting affidavit from even being included in court records.

The document and judge’s comments weren’t the only surprises in Friday’s courtroom.

Christopher Wilson, vice president of Petroleum Equipment and Services and son of owner Arthur Wilson, testified for the first time in the case that his company did not install the particular type of fuel nozzle used in the explosion.

“We can’t say that’s my nozzle,” he said.

While Christopher Wilson said he was sad over Coppick’s death, he said he and PES are not to blame.

“I’m deeply saddened…but I don’t feel responsible for causing his death,” he said.

The witness went on to tell the court that his company did install all new nozzles on the marina’s pumps in 2006 but that one of the nozzles was removed and replaced without their knowledge between that date and the blast two years later. He could not, however, provide further details for the jury as to how the nozzle, originally installed on a land pump where it’s not in violation of state law, ended up on a hose located on the marina’s floating fueling dock.

The trial will pick up Wednesday morning with either new evidence or closing remarks.

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