Lawsuit stems from overeager flick of a Bic Explosion destroyed garage, antique car

August 18, 1993|By Sheridan Lyons | Sheridan Lyons,Staff Writer

What do you do if you're a thief siphoning gasoline when it's too dark to see?

Don't flick your Bic.

That's what happened when an explosion destroyed a Chase man's garage and his prized antique Chevrolet truck three years ago this month. Now William Edward Loften Jr. has filed a civil suit in Baltimore County asking for $100,000 in damages from three Essex youths who were responsible and who, he said, were supposed to pay restitution for the fire.

Mr. Loften, owner-manager of Aero Aluminum Inc., said two of the three were juveniles when they broke into a garage at the business in the 200 block of Eyring Ave., Essex, just after midnight on Aug. 13, 1990.

The youths planned to steal Mr. Loften's go-cart, according to Baltimore County police. They rolled the go-cart outside, realized it needed gasoline and were siphoning some from the truck when one of them flicked a cigarette lighter to help the other see underneath the truck.

An officer making a traffic stop nearby heard "a loud explosion" and caught the fleeing suspects, according to the report.

The youths were prosecuted and ordered to make restitution. But Mr. Loften said recently that he has received only a fraction of the money. He said he had no insurance on the garage or the antique truck.

"It was an original 1946 Carryall window van," he said fondly. "There were only 300 made, and I was only the second owner. I had offers . . . but I didn't want to sell it."

Rather than lose the antique truck, he said, he wished the youths had stolen the go-cart, which was recovered outside the garage.

In his lawsuit, Mr. Loften charged the three not only with trespassing but also with negligence, because "the defendants were of suitable age and discretion to know that gasoline ignites when in proximity to an open flame."

Named as defendants on counts of trespass and negligence are: Michael Gale Dougherty, 23, formerly of the 1600 block of Doolittle Road, and two others who were juveniles at the time of the break-in. Two additional counts allege negligence by the parents of the two juveniles for allowing them to be out late and unsupervised.

Dougherty subsequently pleaded guilty to storehouse breaking and was sentenced to serve 18 months of a 10-year sentence, according to court records. He later failed to report to his parole officer, after paying about $100 in restitution, and a warrant was issued. He is at large.

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