Investigation into gas line explosion that injured four continues
Posted: Wednesday, March 1, 2017 12:00 am
By JOSH ALLEN Staff Writer
Wagoner Fire Chief Kelly Grooms said he still awaits the testimonies of witnesses that were on the scene of a gas line explosion that occurred west of Wagoner on 220 Road Thursday, Feb. 23.
The explosion critically injured three and severely burned the arms of a fourth person, according to Grooms.
“I plan to wrap up my investigation into the explosion by the first of next week,” Grooms told the American-Tribune on Monday. “I am still waiting on witness statements from three or four of the workers that were on scene at the time of the explosion. I plan to get all of those statements in this week.”
The exact cause of the explosion is unknown, but Grooms said it happened after a telephone crew damaged a six-inch gas line with a boring machine, causing it to leak, while putting in phone lines.
After the telephone workers realized the line was damaged, they called another crew to come out and repair the gas line. The explosion occurred during this repair process, according to Grooms.
Approximately nine Wagoner firemen responded to the scene after receiving the call just after 7 p.m. last Thursday. Grooms said they were on the scene until after 11 p.m.
The four construction workers closest to the explosion were injured and transported to Wagoner Community Hospital by private vehicle. Three of the injured, however, had to be flown by helicopter to a Tulsa-area hospital to treat what officials said were severe injuries.
The names of those injured are not being released at this time, according to Grooms, nor did he know the status of the injured at press time.
No structures were damaged by the fire, but the telephone companies boring machine, which was about 75 feet north of the explosion, was completely destroyed, along with a tractor owned by the contractors working.
“The contractors were able to move a second tractor out of the way when the explosion occurred, which likely saved it,” Grooms said. “The other tractor was completely destroyed.”
Due to the cause of the fire being a gas line, Grooms said they did not extinguish the flames right away for safety reasons.
“We first made sure everyone was safe and out of the way and then set up a perimeter around the fire to wait on the gas to be cut off to stop the leak,” Grooms said. “There was gas shooting out of the line about 12 feet in the air. If we had put it out without stopping the leak, gas would have kept escaping out of the line and building up, creating gas pockets. That could have caused another explosion.”
“When the gas isn’t burning, it can’t be seen, so we waited on a construction crew to come out and dig around the line so they could snip the line and cut the leak off,” he continued. “There were a couple of valves that the workers tried to shut off before the explosion, but it obviously didn’t shut the flow of the gas off all the way.”
Grooms said people should always pay attention to gas line warning signs before starting to dig and keep safety precautions in mind.
“It’s hard to say right now what caused this, but people should always pay attention to gas line warning signs before starting to dig,” Grooms said. “Without knowing exactly what caused the explosion, it’s hard to say how to be preventative in the future.”
3 people critically injured in Oklahoma gas well explosion
Published February 24, 2017
WAGONER, Okla. – Authorities say four people were injured when a private natural gas well exploded in eastern Oklahoma.
Wagoner County Emergency Manager Heath Underwood says the explosion happened Thursday night as contract workers were repairing a gas line near Wagoner, about 125 miles northeast of Oklahoma City.
Underwood says three workers were critically injured and two of them were flown from the scene by air ambulance.
The Tulsa World reports that the gas line had been damaged by a truck earlier in the day.
Underwood says emergency responders cut off the gas line to the well and allowed the fire to burn out. Firefighters were able to contain the blaze despite high-risk wildfire conditions that sparked a grassfire in nearby Coweta.