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Parents of Plaza Towers tornado victims seeking damages from Moore, school district

Tort claims were filed on behalf of six of the children who died May 20, 2013, inside Plaza Towers Elementary during a deadly tornado that struck Moore, an Oklahoma City suburb.
by Jennifer Palmer Modified: May 22, 2014 at 8:59 pm •  Published: May 22, 2014

The parents of six children who died inside the wreckage of Plaza Towers Elementary School after the tornado on May 20, 2013, have filed tort claims with the city of Moore and Moore Public Schools.

In the documents, the parents claim the school failed to follow safety protocols and the city failed to use qualified architects, engineers and contractors when building the classroom addition where the children died.

A tort claim is a legal complaint against a governmental body. It often is a precursor to a lawsuit, but it gives the governmental body a chance to pay damages without going to court.

Claims were filed on behalf of Sydney Angle, Emily Conatzer, Kyle Davis, JaNae Hornsby, Christopher Legg and Nicolas McCabe.

A tort also was filed on behalf of Emily’s sister, Luci Conatzer, who survived but was injured.

All seven tort claims were received by the city clerk’s office last week, just before the one-year deadline to file a claim. Several also name the state of Oklahoma.

Seven children died in a hallway of Plaza Towers, in the Moore school district, when a wall collapsed onto them during the storm. Families of all but one — 9-year-old Antonia Candelaria — filed tort claims with the city.

The families are seeking monetary damages and have demanded the maximum amount allowed by law.

Moore City Manager Steve Eddy declined to comment Thursday. Moore Public Schools Superintendent Robert Romines didn’t immediately return a phone message seeking comment.

On Monday, the American Society of Civil Engineers said a report from the May 20, 2013, tornado still is under review, and its findings have not been released.

In the days after the tornado, a group of structural engineers inspected Briarwood Elementary School, which also was destroyed. All of its occupants survived.

One of the engineers, an associate professor at the University of Oklahoma, noted deficiencies, including walls lacking reinforced concrete, an anchor bolt pulled from the ground, and places where the masonry walls were not connected to support beams.

Neither school had a storm shelter, but plans for the new schools, which are under construction, each include one.

by Jennifer Palmer
Investigative Reporter
Jennifer Palmer joined The Oklahoman staff in 2008 and, after five years on the business desk, is now digging deeper through investigative work. She's been recognized with awards in public service reporting and personal column writing. Prior to...
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