CEO promises rebuilding help; reality harder to reach

Tuesday, January 28, 2020
Lawsuits have been filed against Watson Grinding
This is what the CEO of Watson Grinding said about the homes damaged in the deadly explosion.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Dueling statements from the CEO of the company at the center of an investigation into last week's deadly explosion are leaving damaged home and business owners in a cloud of confusion.

Tuesday morning, John Watson spoke with ABC13's Ted Oberg about the disaster via phone, saying, "I will repair all the damaged homes. My insurance company will."

The process to make claims was expected to be rolled out in the next few days, according to Watson.

Robert Kwok, an attorney representing more than 100 people who lived and worked near the site of the blast, told ABC13, "That's a big offer. My clients are ready to settle."

RELATED: Neighbors rush to help repair homes damaged by explosion before rain

But by Tuesday afternoon, Watson was dialing his earlier statement back.

A written statement attributed to the CEO says, "To correct comments I made earlier today, no claims process has been established at this time. Who is at fault and who will pay for damages cannot be determined at this early stage."

It is unclear what transpired Tuesday, but insurance experts reached by 13 Investigates said it was likely not an assurance the CEO had authority to make.

It's unclear how large Watson Grinding's insurance policies were, but according to attorneys who are familiar with similar cases, it would be unlikely for a company this size to have more than $10 million to $15 million.

Massive blast damage field treated as crime scene

After at least two people were killed in a huge explosion felt across Houston. Authorities are now in recovery mode.

The city of Houston says more than 450 homes and businesses were damaged. Two people died. Given the lawsuits that have already been filed, whatever insurance coverage Watson Grinding carried may not be enough to make every victim whole.

What we know about the victims of the Houston explosion

A friend of one of the possible victims was on the phone with him as he arrived to work and said he smelled gas.

Below is Watson's complete statement from Tuesday afternoon:

"We understand and appreciate the intense interest in supporting the community who have been affected by last week's incident. It's heartbreaking to see our neighbors struggle.

To correct comments I made earlier today, no claims process has been established at this time. Who is at fault and who will pay for damages cannot be determined at this early stage.

We too continue to manage the immediate aftermath, and evaluate options around how to support the community. Our priority remains working with federal, state and local officials to secure the site and ensure safety for the area. In terms of next steps, there is a process that must be followed, and it takes time. A complete investigation is essential to determine the cause and identify potentially responsible parties. At this point, it is premature for the insurers to make any decisions with regard to payment from this tragic incident.

Finally, we express our heartfelt gratitude to our neighbors and the entire Houston community for your patience, understanding and support during this difficult time. This is a very complex matter and as soon as there is more information available, we expect it will be communicated quickly."

The video above is from a previous story.

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