NTSB Investigating Fatal Kentucky Gas Pipeline Explosion

The explosion occurred in a Camp Trailer Park about 1:20 a.m. Flames shot up 300 feet in the air and were seen dozens of miles away in Lexington and other communities and engulfed some homes and damaged others.

by Mike Stunson, Rebekah Alvey, and Blll Estep, Lexington Herald-Leader / August 1, 2019

(TNS) — The NTSB is investigating after a gas pipeline exploded, destroying at least five homes, killing a woman and injuring several others early Thursday in Lincoln County, authorities said.

The explosion occurred in the Indian Camp Trailer Park about 1:20 a.m. in between Junction City and Hustonville and flames shot up 300 feet in the air, according to Lincoln County Emergency Management director Don Gilliam.

The fire — that could be seen dozens of miles away in Lexington and other communities — engulfed some homes and damaged others while residents fled.

Lisa Denise Derringer, 58, was killed, the Lincoln County coroner’s office told WKYT. An autopsy was scheduled for Thursday, Kentucky State Police Trooper Robert Purdy said. Her daughter, Candy Ellis, wrote on Facebook that her mother called her in her last moments.

“She called me but couldn’t speak this morning,” Ellis said. “I have to believe that her heart was at peace when I was calling her name.”

“Our family has had our share of struggles the past few years but when the words ‘Momma’ can’t be spoken directly (to) anymore, it hits a different level of pain,” she said.

At least five were injured in the blast, Gilliam said. Their injuries did not appear to be life-threatening, Gilliam said.

Ephraim McDowell Regional Medical Center in Danville treated five injured victims and four were released, a spokesperson said.

One of the injured was a Lincoln County Sheriff’s deputy who helped rescue an elderly man and woman. All three were hospitalized, Purdy said. Their names were not released, and it was unclear if they were among the patients at Ephraim.

“Without him being there at the right time, we could have had more casualties than what we had,” Purdy said of the deputy.

Although up to seven people were unaccounted for in the early hours after the blast, by noon, all had been located, Purdy said.

The fire was out by 8 a.m. but at least five homes were destroyed, Purdy said. Anything within 500 yards of the fire and explosion had some kind of damage, he added.

“”There is just nothing left,” Gilliam said of some of the homes. “There doesn’t look like there is any in between back there; they are either destroyed or still standing.”

Judy Gooch was jolted from her bed by a “horrendous” roaring sound at her mobile home and when she looked outside it was like daylight, she said. The home was shaking.

“We just saw flames shooting up over the roof. The air was so hot it would take your breath,” Gooch said. She and her 16-year-old granddaughter escaped in their car.

“There was a lot of people running from the fire,” and to the road, she said.

New Hope Baptist Church served as a shelter for fire victims and those who left their surrounding houses in fear after the mobile home park blast. Initally, about 75 people were sent to the church, Lincoln County Deputy Jim Vines said. A 1.5 mile stretch of U.S. 127 between Junction City and Hustonville also was temporarily closed, Vines added.

It was not clear when people would get back into their residences.

Enbridge, the parent company of Texas Eastern that owns the line, would provide assistance, including temporary housing, to victims if needed, spokesman Devin Hotzel said.

The fire was so hot nearby train tracks were also damaged and at least 17 Norfolk Southern rail cars were backed up, Purdy said. The tracks reopened early in the afternoon.

The ruptured gas line that caused the explosion was shut off afterward, according to James McGuffey, Enbridge area manager. The company had representatives at the site.

A cause for the rupture was not immediately known, and it could take several days to determine, he added.

The pipeline was one of three in the area, according to McGuffey. Pressure was decreased drastically in the other two.

The ruptured pipeline, a Texas Eastern transmission line, stretches more than 9,000 miles from the Mexico border in Texas to New York City.

On Jan. 21, the same natural gas pipeline exploded in Noble County, Ohio, causing the destruction of two homes and injuries to two people, according to multiple media reports.

The pipeline will be the focus of the National Transportation Safety Board which said it was sending three investigators to Kentucky.

Some residents living on or near the gas lines feared an accident while others didn’t. Jason Griffitts who owns a farm adjoining the mobile home park said he worries more about a train derailment from tracks that run behind the house than he worries about the three gas lines that run under the land about 460 feet away from the house.

A blast like Thursday’s is “such a rarity,” he said. He got a visit from gas company representatives previously and they instructed him on the signs — hissing, dirt blowing up, dead vegetation — of a gas leak.

It’s not clear if there were any advance signs that trouble was brewing in the mobile home park before Thursday.

Gilliam, the emergency manager for the county, said he wakes up in the night concerned about the pipelines.

“When you get age on ‘em, you can’t help but be concerned,” he said. “I don’t know who would want to build next to a pipeline.”

Despite the death and damage, the community got lucky Thursday because it could have been much worse.

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said in a statement he and his office were monitoring the blast aftermath and the investigation just beginning.

“Our prayers are with all the families whom this disaster has touched, and our gratitude is with all the first responders who rushed toward towering flames to protect their neighbors and communities,” the Kentucky Republican said.

State Rep David Meade, R-Sanford, said he was flying into Blue Grass Airport at 1:30 a.m. when he saw the flames.

“It was massive,” said Meade, who was helping direct traffic in Lincoln County later Thursday.

Laura Sioux Kirkpatrick wrote on Facebook her parents lost everything in the fire. She said her mother was burned but OK.

“My step dad who is a Marine said he thought it was a nuclear attack it was so bright and the house walls was just melting right in front of their eyes,” Kirkpatrick wrote. “We don’t know how they got out alive but they did barely and at one point was trapped in the house and was for sure they where not going to get out.”


©2019 the Lexington Herald-Leader (Lexington, Ky.)

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