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Feldman Shepherd and Co-Counsel Donate Mobile Teaching Kitchen to Vetri Community Partnership to Honor Victims of Catastrophic Food Truck Explosion

April 22, 2019

Feldman Shepherd, along with two other plaintiffs’ personal injury law firms, recently donated funds for the purchase of a Mobile Teaching Kitchen by Vetri Community Partnership in honor of the victims of a catastrophic food truck explosion in 2014 that killed two people and severely injured several others in North Philadelphia.

Through our donation, we also pay tribute to an unfulfilled dream of our clients’ family matriarch, the owner of the food truck, who died from her injuries.

Catastrophic Food Truck Explosion

On July 1, 2014, a propane cylinder on a food truck operating in the Feltonville section of Philadelphia suddenly exploded, engulfing the truck and its occupants in flames. Olga, the 42-year-old owner of the food truck known as La Parrillada Chapina, and her daughter Jaylin, age 18, suffered extensive burn injuries that eventually caused their deaths after three weeks.

The propane cylinder lacked essential safety devices and was not legally qualified for use, but was nevertheless regularly and dangerously refilled by U-Haul. We represented Olga and Jaylin’s family in a lawsuit against U-Haul as they coped with the sudden, horrific loss of their loved ones. Together with other plaintiffs’ firms representing several victims of the explosion and fire, we achieved a groundbreaking financial settlement for all the victims in June 2018.

An Unfulfilled Dream

Olga had always dreamed of owning a restaurant, and her La Parrillada Chapina food truck was to be a stepping stone to that ultimate goal. She loved sharing her authentic, homemade Central American cuisine with her family and community. She was widely known as a kind and compassionate person. When someone was without money but approached her truck window in need of a hot meal or drink, she always served them, adding words of encouragement and consolation.

Jaylin was an intelligent, capable high school student who was about to enter her senior year. She was working at La Parrillada Chapina, helping her mother, when the explosion occurred.

Our Human Bonds

While we hope that the financial settlement of the lawsuit brought some closure to the victims and will be a catalyst to the adoption of corrective measures to improve propane dispensing safety in order to prevent future catastrophes, often it is our human bonds that comfort the afflicted. That is why we make today’s donation.

Vetri Community Partnership is a nonprofit organization founded in 2008 to help kids experience the connection between healthy eating and healthy living. Founded by chef Marc Vetri and restaurateur Jeff Benjamin, Vetri presently operates two Mobile Teaching Kitchens. The Mobile Teaching Kitchens are modified food trucks carrying everything needed to teach pop-up cooking classes and conduct demonstrations at schools, community events, and farmers markets. The classes use fresh and affordable ingredients from local produce markets.

The goal of the Mobile Teaching Kitchens is to bridge the gap to healthy eating by showing how simple, affordable and approachable making delicious from-scratch dishes at home can be.

“Teaching kids and adults how to cook and providing them with positive experiences around healthy food inspires them to make better-informed choices and, in the process, reduces the chances of nutrition-related diseases, such as obesity, diabetes and heart disease,” Vetri Community Partnership CEO Marlene Olshan said.

With the purchase of the third food truck, Vetri, which has reached more than 10,000 people with its two existing Mobile Teaching Kitchens, will have the capacity to bring healthy eating skills to a wider audience. Unlike the other two trucks, the new truck will be equipped with cooking equipment that can be brought indoors, which will allow Vetri to have a positive impact when weather conditions otherwise would be a barrier.

Mobile Teaching Kitchen participants have left events remarking:

“I learned today that my daughter likes raw zucchini.” — Michele

“It was awesome to see our students getting involved with the recipe and working together to make the Cucumber Salad.” – Jeremy

 “I’m not usually a cabbage eater … But this is really good!” — Dorrie

“I would never expect these flavors to go together so well. This is delicious!” – Vanessa

We believe Olga would have loved to hear these comments, which are consistent with her passion in life — to bring well cooked, authentic food to others, and to help the community whenever possible!

We hope that the many people whose lives were shattered by the horrific 2014 explosion will find some comfort in the human bonds that the new Mobile Teaching Kitchen will create.

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