Why the NTSB is Investigating the Minnehaha Academy Explosion

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has joined the investigation of a natural gas explosion at Minnehaha Academy in Minneapolis that killed two people and injured nine others yesterday. A rapid response team from the federal agency charged with determining the probable cause of transportation accidents arrived on scene early this morning. Why is an agency that most people associate with airline crashes and train wrecks investigating a natural gas explosion?

Because pipelines are considered a mode of transportation for oil and gas, the NTSB has jurisdiction over pipelines, said Fred Pritzker, an attorney who represents people injured in explosions and families of those who have lost loved ones. Typically, an NTSB team gathers information from the scene of an explosion over the course of several days and releases a final report within 12 to 18 months. At Minnehaha Academy, the NTSB is looking at the steps Eagan-based Master Mechanical Inc. took before it began work to move the school’s gas meter, according to the StarTribune.

Recently, the agency has joined the investigations of at least three natural gas explosions in residential areas, he said. Those explosions occurred in Manor Township, PA; Marengo, IL and Firestone, CO.

Manor Township, PA House Explosion

One person died and three others were injured in a gas explosion in Manor Township, Pennsylvania on July 2 that leveled one home and damaged four others so badly that they were condemned. Several other homes in the neighborhood sustained damage that rendered them uninhabitable.

A three-man crew from UGi Utilities and one employee from the Lancaster Area Sewer Authority were responding to a gas odor call on Springfield Lane when the explosion occurred around 12:30. Richard A. Bouder, a 54-year-old UGI employee from East Lampeter Township was killed in the blast. The three others were injured in the explosion. The homeowner had been asked to leave while the crew searched for the source of the gas odor and was unharmed.

Investigators have not yet determined a probable cause of the explosion but during their investigation, they found that the tapping tee to the home was leaking and that the sewer cleanout was missing a cap,  according to a preliminary report from the NTSB issued July 31.

Marengo, IL House Explosion

A gas explosion in Marengo, IL leveled two homes and damaged at least 48 others in the early morning hours of June 11. Nineteen of the neighboring homes sustained such damages that they were rendered uninhabitable. First responders said it was a miracle that no one was killed in the blast. The owners of the home where the explosion originated were not home at the time, but two people were injured. They were taken to Centegra Hospital-Woodstock where they were treated for minor burns and released.

Firestone House Explosion

An April 17 house explosion in Firestone, CO that killed two people and badly injured a third was caused by a leak from a nearby pipeline. The home on Twilight Avenue in the Oak Meadows subdivision of Firestone belonged to Erin and Mark Martinez and their two children.  On the day of the explosion, Mark and his brother-in-law, Joseph (Joey) Irwin were working on a hot water heater in the basement of the recently constructed home. Irwin was a plumber with 20 years of experience known for his attention to detail.  The explosion killed both men and leveled the home. Erin and one of the children were inside different parts of the house at the time. The child managed to escape, Erin was pinned beneath the rubble as a massive fire raged.

A construction crew working in the area rushed to the scene and rescued Erin using a forklift to lift a portion of the collapsed house and pull her to safety. She was badly burned and airlifted to a trauma center where she remained for months.

Investigators discovered an abandoned set of flow lines—a 2-inch line and a 1-inch line—excavated at a depth of seven feet were found six feet from the home’s foundation. The lines had been abandoned prior to the development of the subdivision. Investigators traced both lines back to the well where the 2-inch line was disconnected and capped, but the 1 -inch line was still connected to the well through a valve that was in the on position until the night of the explosion when it was turned off at the request of first responders.

You can reach Fred Pritzker and the experienced team of explosion lawyers at Pritzker Hageman online or by calling 1 (888) 377-8900 toll-free.

Pritzker Hageman Law Firm

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