‘We will not stay silent’: Bradenton family wants accountability after death of USF student in house explosion

Manatee County

BRADENTON, Fla. (WFLA) – A Manatee County family wants someone held accountable for the death of a University of South Florida student who died a few weeks after a gas leak caused their house to explode.

The Lopez family that lost its home in the Dec. 3 explosion is now preparing for the funeral of 22-year-old Adrian Lopez Jr.  

“My mother is heartbroken,” Karina Lopez said at a press conference Friday.

She could not hold back the tears talking about her brother.

“He wanted to become an engineer and make a difference and sadly he couldn’t complete that,” she said.

His bright future was cut short with only exam left before graduation from USF. He passed away Wednesday after weeks of fighting for his life in the hospital.

“The gas leak they said it wasn’t a big deal and it turned out horribly wrong,” Karina said.

A gas leak had been reported near the family’s home at 804 29th Ave. W. on the morning of Dec. 3.

The family attorney’s law firm is conducting an investigation into the cause of the explosion.

Attorney C.J. Czaia said they believe the gas from the leak went through the sewer system before the explosion that left both Adrian Jr. and his father badly burned and injured.

“They had no gas in the house,” Czaia said. “They didn’t think they were in danger necessarily but they did heed the words law enforcement and we know for a fact there was at least a fireman who said you can go back in. They did and the explosion occurred.”

Adrian Lopez Sr. is still hospitalized with a long road to recovery.

Czaia said Lopez Sr. was able to leave his hospital bed in Bradenton to be by his son’s side at the end at a Largo hospital.

“They were just barely keeping him alive and (Lopez Sr.) said please take my liver, my lungs, my whatever,” Czaia said.

No lawsuit has been filed yet. Czaia said his team is looking into the actions of several responding agencies.

“We will not stay silent about the negligence from the higher authorities who are supposed to keep us safe,” Karina Lopez said.

Cedar Hammock Fire Control District was one of the first fire departments to respond. Deputy Chief Kyle Bradshaw told 8 On Your Side the state’s fire marshal is the lead investigator of the now deadly explosion.

“Cedar Hammock Fire Control District would like to offer its sincere condolences to the Lopez family during this time of grief,” Chief Bradshaw said. “May the love, prayers, and support of family, friends, and community bring them comfort during this most difficult time.”

More than $17,000 has already been raised to support the family during this difficult time.

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