Detroit, MI- The shock felt by Wayne residents in the wake of Wednesday’s suspected natural gas explosion is, unfortunately, not necessarily a rare occurrence. Metro Detroit has seen its share of natural gas explosions in the past, with many of those resulting in death, injury and serious property damage.
Earlier this month, the Oak Grove United Methodist Church in Howell hosted a fundraiser for the family of Bill Klein. The 46-year-old died in an Oct. 29 gas leak explosion at his home on East Allen.
Such natural gas explosions are most often caused by structural problems in the pipeline, according to experts.
“It varies from pipeline to pipeline but typically, the leading cause of those kinds of explosions is some kind of damage done to the line, usually by digging,” said Carl Weimer, executive director of the Washington-based Pipeline Safety Trust. Weimer’s organization advocates the safe transportation of fuels.
A recent sampling of natural gas-related explosions includes: In September 2009, Virginia Cislo died when a natural gas leak in her St. Clair Shores home ignited, causing burns to more than half of her body.
In September 2008, an 83-year-old Bloomfield Township woman died when a natural gas explosion blew the roof off her home and ignited a structure fire.
In November 2007, a home in Canton Township was destroyed by a natural gas explosion. Neighbors helped rescue the couple living there.
In May 2007, a mother and two children were seriously injured when leaking natural gas ignited in their Clinton Township home and exploded into a house fire.
In March 2001, a natural gas explosion collapsed the roof at Emmet Industries Inc., an automotive supplier in Warren. The plant was empty at the time and no one was injured.
In 1992, a natural gas explosion in Rochester leveled a two-story building, killing 60-year-old James J. Nelson of Marine City.
Aside from digging accidents, pipeline ruptures and leaks can be caused by other factors, such as coupling separation, the age of the lines and corrosion.
Investigators in Wayne said they had not determined which, if any, of those factors cause the morning’s explosion.
“That will all be part of our investigation,” said Debra Dodd, a spokeswoman for Consumers Energy. “We really don’t know (the cause) at this time.”