CLEBURNE, Texas (AP) - A large natural gas line in north Texas
erupted Monday after utility workers accidentally hit the line,
sending a massive fireball into the air and killing one worker,
Authorities found the missing worker's body several hours after
the explosion, once searchers could safely walk through the entire
charred area. Authorities had hoped the missing man had left the
scene on his own, like some of his colleagues who drove themselves
Brian Fine, Hood County's emergency management coordinator, said
the worker's body was found some distance from the blast site. The
man's name was not immediately released.
The worker had been riding a truck drilling holes for utility
poles when the line suddenly exploded, and other workers lost sight
of him in the intense smoke, said Roger Harmon, Johnson County's
top elected official.
Near the blast site in rural Johnson County about 50 miles
southwest of Dallas, officials later found the truck upside down
and saw that the 2,000-pound auger had been ripped off and hurled
250 feet away, said Cleburne Fire Chief Clint Ishmael.
At least seven of the other 13 workers who had been working at
the site went to hospitals. 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. Spokeswoman Whitney Jodry did
not have person's condition.
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
"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 initially saying three people had
Heat from the blast forced firefighters to stay about a
half-mile away until the gas flow was shut off, and they were
unable to douse the flames.
A control room at Houston-based Enterprise Products Partners LP,
which owns the gas line, immediately identified a break in the line
near Cleburne, said company spokesman Rick Rainey. 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
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. Rainey said the company would work with
customers to avoid any disruption to their service from the fire.
The injured workers were digging for a subcontractor hired by
Waco-based Brazos Electric Cooperative, Snow said. A message
seeking comment from that company was not immediately returned. A
spokesman for the subcontractor, Oklahoma-based C&H Power Line
Construction Services, did not immediately respond to a call for
Johnson County's emergency management coordinator, Jack Snow,
said officials were investigating whether the gas line was marked.
The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration were also
at the scene.
The Texas natural gas blast followed one in West Virginia
earlier Monday. Seven workers were burned when a drilling crew hit
a pocket of methane gas, triggering an explosion in a rural area
about 55 miles southwest of Pittsburgh.
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