California pipeline struck by heavy equipment explodes, injuring 11


If you need more evidence that hydroexcavation is safer than traditional forms of digging, look at the news coming out of California on April 17.

Crews using heavy equipment apparently hit a 12-inch Pacific Gas & Electric pipeline carrying natural gas, which triggered an explosion that closed a major highway in California and injured at least 11, three of them critically.

A Fresno County equipment operator was working with a crew of jail inmates to expand the sheriff’s department’s gun range alongside Highway 99 when flames shot up well over 100 feet in the air.

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According to the Associated Press, the front-loader operator was a county public works employee who had been working at the shooting range all day, along with 13 jail inmate workers.

Fresno County Sheriff Margaret Mims did not know if the crews were scraping or digging the ground when the pipeline exploded, saying the office is still investigating the accident.

Kevin Ling, who was driving along the highway when the incident occurred, told the Associated Press that there was a fireball maybe 10 to 15 feet in diameter.

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“My window was up and my AC was on and it still felt like a furnace inside my car,” Ling said.

There are still many unknowns in this accident — whether the lines were located and marked before digging started is a big question that needs to be answered.

Anytime a contractor starts digging — with any piece of equipment — it is a smart decision to locate all lines in the area you are digging. Most states have an 811 service that will do this for free.

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Secondly, if there were known lines in the area, hydroexcavation could have been used to expose them for safer digging and several injuries could have been prevented.

In any case, this shows how important it is to be safe while doing any type of excavation work. You never know what lies beneath you.


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