Evansville, IN – Indianapolis Star – State investigators said a gas company violated state and federal regulations before an April house explosion in Evansville that killed two women.
The pipeline safety division of Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission found Vectren’s internal procedures were not followed on the day of the accident, the Courier & Press of Evansville reported today. The report released Friday also cited Vectren for not verifying that personnel knew emergency procedures.
IURC spokeswoman Mary Beth Fisher said the agency has the authority to fine Vectren, but could not say if it would.
Undetected natural gas led to an April 3 explosion that killed the homeowner, Daisy Pauline Hardy, 89, and a friend who was visiting at the time, Josie Williams. The explosion also severely injured Vectren employee Mark Rexing.
The report included documents listing other times the water utility turned off gas valves and caused gas leaks. The report then cited Vectren for failure to analyze accidents and minimize the possibility that they happen again.
A statement by Vectren called the blast a “tragedy.”
Fire investigators said a gas leak occurred after city water department employees mistook the gas line to Hardy’s house for a water line. When the workers turned a valve to shut off the line, it fractured a plastic pipe carrying gas that was inside an older metal pipe which stopped about three feet from the basement wall.
Investigators believed that the gas flowed out of the plastic pipe and into the metal one, and then migrated through the ground toward the home’s basement. The soil filtered out the odorant that is added to natural gas to alert people to leaks, so Rexing did not smell the gas in the basement when he lit a match to light the pilot in the water heater after repairing the broken line.
“It was discovered that the contractor hired by Vectren to install the plastic line did not complete the work as specified in the contract and failed to remove a valve access box marked ‘GAS’ which made the gas valve easily accessible,” the statement said.
Vectren said changes have been made since the accident, including investigating past projects undertaken by the same contractor, reviewing procedures and setting up ways to evaluate the effectiveness of “refresher courses” required of workers.
“We are confident that our procedures are in line with industry standards and regulatory requirements,” the statement said.