Oklahoma City gas explosion under investigation

March 2013, Vol. 68 No. 3

On Jan. 3, a natural gas explosion leveled a house in Oklahoma City where about 14 people were evacuated from the area after the explosion; however no one was seriously injured or killed. Several surrounding houses were severely damaged and one home was a total loss.

However, these same residents are wondering why no one was evacuated prior to the explosion as Oklahoma Natural Gas workers attempted to find and repair the gas leak. The incident is currently under investigation by Oklahoma Natural Gas (ONG), state agencies, and the federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, a division of the United States Department of Transportation.
Witnesses say that telecommunications contractors were working in the area prior to the gas leak, and the Oklahoma City Fire Department confirms that the contractors cut a line. Neighborhood residents say that they smelled gas, but that ONG workers were already on the scene. ONG workers investigated the leak for about an hour, witnesses say, before a home exploded, blasting them from where they had been working. The ONG workers are being lauded for their heroic actions as they ran to the back of the burning house, pulling home owner Kate Purcell, 61, from the rubble and fire.

Witnesses who smelled gas and later heard the explosion said they had no doubt what caused the blast, and they question why residents were allowed to remain in the area. In fact, Purcell's daughter says that her mother smelled the gas and even asked ONG workers if she needed to leave shortly before the explosion reduced her home to rubble.

According to ONG spokeswoman Cherokee Ballard, ONG received a call about the smell of natural gas at approximately 3:20 p.m. A crew arrived to investigate at about 4 p.m., and the blast occurred an hour later. When asked why the area was not evacuated while the crew worked to find the source of the leak and repair it, Ballard said the matter was still under investigation.