OCC: Technician’s failure to ‘properly investigate’ odor played role in Oklahoma City home explosion

House explosion near NW 122nd and Rockwell

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OKLAHOMA CITY – Over eight months after a home explosion sent three people to the hospital, the Oklahoma Corporation Commission released its findings behind the explosion.

On Jan. 2, emergency crews rushed to a home on Whispering Hollow Dr. after it suddenly exploded in the early morning hours.

In all, three people were injured and dozens of homes were damaged in the neighborhood.

Initially, fire investigators said it was obvious that natural gas found its way to an ignition source inside the home, which led to the explosion.

An official report from Oklahoma Natural Gas confirms the cause of the explosion was a crack in one of the welds of the plastic pipes.

According to the report, along with the poor workmanship, a leak resulted from a crack in a butt fusion weld in a four-inch plastic pipe.

The crack was a little more than three inches on the outside and nearly two inches along the inside.

On Wednesday, the Oklahoma Corporation Commission released its findings from its own investigation of the explosion.

The report claims that ONG workers were called to the area the previous afternoon after a neighbor smelled natural gas.

Although crews didn’t find a leak at that home, they moved to 12505 Whispering Hollow Dr. and discovered gas in the backyard.

“The technician classified the leak as a non-hazardous gas leak and informed the homeowner a work crew would be back on Monday, January 4, 2016, to repair the leak,” the report reads.

Several hours later, another neighbor called ONG to report the odor of natural gas. The report alleges that a technician found a thread leak at another home and turned off the gas there.

While investigating the leaks, a technician knocked on the door of 12505, but no one answered the door.

A technician also found another small leak at a third neighbor’s home and repaired that, while also finding a leak near the main the backyard of 12509 Whispering Hollow Dr.

Just 20 minutes later, while the crew was in the backyard of 12509 Whispering Hollow Dr., the home at 12505 exploded.

Amazingly, the homeowner survived the explosion but suffered burns to his arms and chest.

Investigators determined that a fusion joint was cracked.

“The Oklahoma Corporation Commission’s Pipeline Safety Department has determined the probable cause of the January 2, 2016, natural gas explosion at 12505 Whispering Hollow Drive, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, was the failure of the 4-inch PE main in the fusion joint. The fusion joint had inadequate fusion in the interior mid-portion of the butt fusion joint.

Contributing to the incident was ONG’s failure to analyze the previous eight joint failures on the 1,269 feet of 4-inch PE main in the Walnut Creek Subdivision. Based on repair records, all previous joint failures occurred in the fusion butt joints. There were no records indicating that any action, other than repairing the existing leak, was taken. There were no actions taken to determine the cause of the failed fusion joints and eliminate or minimize the reoccurrence of future butt fusion joint failures.

Additionally, the failure to properly investigate the odor complaint on the afternoon of January 1, 2016, further contributed to the incident. Company procedures require the investigation of a gas leak to pin-point the gas leak and determine the mitigation pattern. This is accomplished by conducting a series of bar-hole leak surveys in all directions around the suspected leak location and expanding the bar-hole survey in a circular pattern to determine the extent of gas migration.

Technician 1 only conducted bar-hole surveys along the customer’s fuel line running from the gas meter to the point where the fuel line entered the residence, beside the gas meter to the south and north and along where he thought the service line ran from the gas meter to the gas main. Had Technician 1 followed ONG procedures, the precise location of the leak would have been identified, resulting in additional information being made available to judge the severity of the situation,” the report concludes.


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