A house on 22nd Avenue in the Sunset District of San Francisco exploded and collapsed on Feb. 9, 2023; the yellow house next door was rented by members at Congregation Adath Israel, who lost everything. (Photo/Sue Barnett)
A house on 22nd Avenue in the Sunset District of San Francisco exploded and collapsed on Feb. 9, 2023; the yellow house next door was rented by members at Congregation Adath Israel, who lost everything. (Photo/Sue Barnett)

Family who lost everything in explosion, including ‘antique Judaica,’ files suit

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David Garth and his family lost their home and all their possessions in February when their next-door neighbor’s house exploded, ripping a hole through their Sunset District home and setting it on fire.

Now Garth and his wife have sued the owner of the house, whose tenant operated a drug lab that caused the explosion, according to the San Francisco Police Department.

Claims in the suit filed in California Superior Court in San Francisco on May 22 say “Defendants knew that their tenant, Darron Price (‘Darron’), was using the home at 1734 22nd Avenue as a factory for his illegal hash oil fabrication business.”

Among the items destroyed in the blaze were precious Jewish objects, the civil complaint says.

“Most notably, David had a business selling antique Judaica, and most of his collection was also lost to the fire,” the filing states. Also destroyed were “irreplaceable” items including “family heirlooms” and photographs.

“David and Nang were forced to watch from a distance as the life they had built slowly burned away,” the court filing states.

 

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On the morning of the incident, Garth was in Oakland while his wife, Sarah (Nang) Phommavongsay, and the couple’s 6-year-old daughter were at work and school.

The explosion occurred at 9:20 a.m., creating large clouds of dark smoke, causing the house to collapse and rattling the neighborhood. Car doors flew open, and windows and garages on adjacent houses blew out into the street.

“We are very grateful to be alive,” Garth told J. a few days after the fire. “Had we been home, we well might not be.” (Garth declined to speak with J. about the lawsuit.)

The cause of the explosion was an illegal hash oil factory operated by Price, who rented the house from Peter and Diane De Martini. According to the SFPD, the explosion was caused by “ignitable vapors” coming into contact with the starting sequence of the clothes dryer. Price’s disabled wife died in the explosion, and her caretaker was severely injured. The couple’s two teenage children were not at home.

According to the filings, Garth and Phommavongsay assert that the De Martinis knew or should have known that their tenant was running an illegal hash oil fabrication business at the site, because the owners lived nearby and occasionally came by the house.

“Defendants were aware or should have been aware that he had filled the basement of the home with large butane tanks used for these illegal purposes. Defendants failed to take reasonable precautions to warn Plaintiffs and their neighbors of the extreme danger posed by Darron’s illegal activities.”

Garth, his wife and daughter had rented the single-family home on 22nd Avenue for eight years. Members of nearby Orthodox synagogue Adath Israel, they would walk the short distance to the shul on Noriega Street.

Maya Mirsky
Maya Mirsky

Maya Mirsky is a J. Staff Writer based in Oakland.