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2013 Colorado flood victims sue federal government

DENVER — Victims of the Colorado floods of 2013 have laid out their case in a federal lawsuit, claiming the federal government is to blame for their homes being washed away.

Three plaintiffs allege the Bureau of Reclamation, in charge of Olympus Dam, should have released more water sooner as meteorologists warned of major flooding through the Big Thompson River Canyon in September of 2013. Instead, the lawsuit claims government negligence made a natural disaster even worse.

The plaintiffs are Elizabeth Orr, Howard Carman and Lena Carman. Orr now resides in Dallas, Texas. The Carmans now live in Dolores, Colorado.

The 10-page suit, filed in U.S. District Court Friday, accuses the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation of standing by and doing nothing to control rising water being contained in Lake Estes by the dam. As heavy rain continued to soak northern Colorado, the plaintiffs said federal employees waited too long– three days– to release more than 30 times increase of water flow downstream. The lawsuit alleges a decision was then made to release roughly 5,000 cubic feet of water per second, guaranteeing homes would be washed away.

The suit claims the federal government had enough time to warn homeowners that there was no question homes would be destroyed. The lawsuit states such a warning would have allowed residents to move personal property to higher ground.

The court must decide if a jury trial is appropriate for the case. The plaintiffs, who no longer live in the greater Denver area, were not available to talk to FOX31 Monday. The Bureau of Reclamation did not return calls from FOX31.

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