Monday, Jun 25, 2018
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1 worker killed in natural gas line blast

CLEBURNE, Texas - An emergency management official says a utility worker's body has been found several hours after a natural gas line exploded in Texas.

Hood County Emergency Management Coordinator Brian Fine says the worker's body was found last night some distance from the blast site. The man's name was not immediately released.

The large natural gas line in north Texas erupted yesterday after utility workers accidentally hit the line, sending a massive fireball into the air, officials said.

Earlier yesterday, seven workers were burned when a crew drilling a natural gas well through an abandoned coal mine in West Virginia hit a pocket of methane gas that ignited, triggering an explosion.

The explosion happened about 1:30 a.m. in a rural area about 55 miles southwest of Pittsburgh. A column of fire shot at least 70 feet high, but the flames fell to 40 feet within hours.

In the Texas incident, the worker who was killed had just gotten down from a machine drilling utility pole holes when the line suddenly exploded. Other workers lost sight of him in the intense smoke, said Roger Harmon, Johnson County's top elected official.

Laura Harlin, a resident of nearby Granbury, said around the time of the blast she heard a "huge rumbling" that initially sounded like thunder and then like a tornado because it lasted so long.

"For about 10 minutes, it was so loud that it was like there was an 18-wheeler rumbling in your driveway," she said.

The explosion caused confusion among officials in its immediate aftermath, with one city official saying three people had been killed.

The official, Cleburne City Manager Chester Nolen, later said that after fire officials and the gas line operator extinguished the fire, he was unsure if anyone was killed.

Heat from the blast forced firefighters to stay about a half-mile away until the gas flow was shut off.

At least seven of the workers went to the hospital following the explosion.

Gary Marks, CEO of Glen Rose Medical Center, said two people were treated and released, and four others were in stable condition.

One patient was taken to Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital Fort Worth. Spokesman Whitney Jodry did not have the person's condition.

The gas line is owned by Houston-based Enterprise Products Partners LP. Spokesman Rick Rainey said Enterprise's control room immediately identified a break in the line near Cleburne, about 50 miles southwest of Dallas.

The 36-inch line was equipped with valves that automatically shut down gas to that section of pipe, and the fire was out about two hours after the explosion.

The pipeline helps carry gas from West Texas across the state to utilities, distribution companies, and commercial users on the eastern end of the state.

The seven workers burned in the West Virginia incident were taken to West Penn Burn Center in Pittsburgh. Two were released by the end of the day and the others were walking around the hospital and talking with their families.

The gas will continue to burn off for two to three days, said Kristi Gittins, spokesman for Dallas-based Chief Oil & Gas LLC.

As it does, a team from Texas-based Wild Well Control, a company that specializes in rig fires, is moving out damaged equipment. Once those workers can safely reach the well, they will cap it, Ms. Gittins said.

The fire presents no danger to any structures or people, said Bill Hendershot, an inspector with the state Department of Environmental Protection's Office of Oil and Gas.

The operation was less than a week old when the blast occurred: DEP records show a permit was issued June 2 to AB Resources PA LLC of Brecksville, Ohio.

Crews had drilled through the abandoned Consol Energy mine before without incident, Ms. Gittins said.

Methane is a known risk when working near old mines, and the company typically takes a variety of precautions, including venting systems. Ms. Gittins could not immediately say what precautions were in place at this site.

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