SPRINGFIELD (CBS) – Columbia Gas Company admits they are at fault for an explosion that leveled a Springfield strip club.
It looked like a missile strike on Friday night.
The massive natural gas explosion injured more than 20 people and damaged 42 buildings on Worthington Street in Springfield.
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The explosion was caused by a gas company employee sticking a metal probe into an underground pipe. But it was not his fault. WBZ has confirmed the painted marking on the sidewalk indicating the location of an underground gas line was incorrect. It was off by more than two feet.
Those markings were put there by Columbia Gas a year earlier, but for some reason did not reflect an elbow turn in the underground pipe.
The President of the Gas Company, Steve Bryant, said “Under normal circumstance there would be a straight line from the valve box to where he already knew the service line entered the building. But it did not follow a straight line. So following standard practice he put probe in the ground and struck the service line.”
The leaking gas quickly accumulated in the building that housed a strip club and 30 minutes later, some unknown ignition source caused the explosion. Luckily the worker had ordered an evacuation and no one was killed.
Even though Columbia Gas has accepted full responsibility, it could still face fines from the Department of Public Utilities.
Anne Berwick is the Chair of the Commission. She says, “We know the markings on the sidewalk were placed in the wrong place, so we are going to investigate how that came to pass.”
Columbia Gas drew those markings in November 2011.
But the company still has not said why. And the state wants to know what caused the initial odor of gas.
It was the search for the source of that smell that led to the punctured line and explosion.