NEWPORT BEACH (CBSLA) — Last October, a series of vault explosions at Old World Village in Huntington Beach injured five people, including Bernie Bischof who recently filed suit against Southern California Edison.
“In that next moment, it exploded,” Bischof said. “All of a sudden, I’m laying on the ground. I’m on fire, in pain.”
It was the height of the Oktoberfest season with a sold out crowd celebrating the season on a Saturday night.
Bischof, the 60-year-old owner of Old World German Restaurant, said he was trying to save himself as his customers yelled for him to roll on the ground and used water and a tablecloth to help him.
Minutes before, Bischof said an underground transformer in the patio blew up. Bischof, smelling the smoke, worked to clear people from the area.
“Bernie’s a hero,” Greg Bentley, Bischof’s attorney, said. “He cleared out a patio that could have had 200-400 people on it at the time because he smelled smoke. And so, the reality is that absent him doing the right thing, this would have been really bad.”
And, according to a lawsuit filed Tuesday by Bischof and his attorney, the explosions were entirely preventable. The suit alleges that Bischof had been complaining to Southern California Edison about the noisy transformer and the lack of maintenance on it for years.
“The transformer’s rattling, making noise,” Bentley said. “Every time SCE comes out, they look at it and they tell Old World and they tell Bernie that it’s fine, nothing’s wrong.”
Bischof said he is now forced to live with the trauma of that night and the scars from burns that cover more than half of his body.
“The scarring is there,” he said. “It will be my lifelong tattoo. I guess you could call it that.”
Southern California Edison released a statement Wednesday evening that said:
“Our thoughts go out to Mr. Bischof and his family. While Southern California Edison is aware of the lawsuit filed by Mr. Bischof in relation to the incident that took place in October 2019, SCE cannot discuss the specifics of pending litigation.”