Update: No Evidence Of Criminal Intent In Morgan Co. Explosion

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Update 2:26 p.m.

The Morgan County Sheriff's Office says yesterday's explosion in Homer Township was the result of the ignition of natural gas following an over-pressurization or failure in the pipe or pipe weld.

Officials say investigators cannot determine the exact source of ignition, but believe a spark from debris, static electricity or nearby power transformers likely ignited the natural gas.

The Sheriff's Office and State Fire Marshal's Office have concluded their investigation and say they have found no evidence of criminal intent.


Update 2:13 p.m.

Democratic U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown is calling for a federal investigation into a natural gas pipeline explosion in Morgan County yesterday.

Brown says federal officials need to conduct a probe and ensure the safety of natural gas pipelines throughout the state.

“Ohioans should have confidence that natural gas pipelines throughout our state are safe,” Brown said. “As areas of Ohio see increased drilling for natural gas, it’s critical that we ensure the safety of Ohioans, their property, and the environment. The Senate spoke with one voice and passed the Pipeline Safety Improvement Act, and now it’s time for the House to take a strong stance.” 

He also says the U.S. House of Representatives needs to pass a bill to strengthen safety standards for natural gas pipelines.

Last month, the U.S. Senate unanimously passed the Pipeline Safety Improvement Act of 2011.

Brown says the act is designed to strengthen safety and increase transparency of inspection and enforcement reports of natural gas pipelines.

The bill requires new safety procedures, impose higher penalties for safety violations and expedite notifications of accidents or leaks.

Brown sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Transportation's Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration asking officials to investigate the explosion and enforce all safety standards.


Update 1:01 p.m.

Tennessee Gas has put round the clock security guards on the site of a Morgan County natural gas pipeline explosion.

Company Spokeswoman Gretchen Krueger says the guards are being used to protect the public and to make sure the site is not "contaminated" since it is the subject of an investigation.

She says guards will be on site 24 hours a day.

Krueger says investigators are working at the scene today, but no new information is being released about what may have caused the rupture and fire.

She says the investigation may take time.

"It will be every day, just looking at every possible angle of what could have gone wrong," says Krueger.

She also says that Tennessee Gas employees are canvassing the area, talking to residents to learn about damage caused by the blast.

"Something that may be less obvious to someone just looking at someone's house, we need to make sure they're okay as wll," says Krueger.


Update 8:57 a.m.

A Tennessee Gas spokeswoman says the portion of the line that exploded yesterday was last inspected by the company four days before the incident.

Gretchen Krueger says the November 11 inspection was the 16th time the line was inspected from the air by the company in 2011.

She says trained inspectors look at the natural gas pipeline's right-of-way by airplane to look for vegetation changes, among other things.

"They look to see if anything does not look like what a right-of-way should look like," says Krueger.

She says the company monitors all of their lines from gas control centers 24 hours a day.

Data collected from the control centers will be used as part of the investigation to determine a cause of the explosion in Morgan County.

Investigators are on the scene this morning.

"They look at the pipe from every angle, the gas flow, what was happening at the time of the incident," says Krueger.

She says this pipe is a carbon-steel pipe and a metallurgist is part of the investigative team.

A metallurgist is an engineer trained in the extraction and refining and alloying and fabrication of metals.

There is no timeline for when the investigation will be complete.

Krueger says Tennessee Gas is regulated by the U.S. Department of Transportation.

She says the company had a conference call with U.S. DOT officials last night to update them on where they are in the investigation.

Krueger says they are providing housing for the families who were displaced by the explosion and making sure that their other needs are also taken care of.



Update 8:04 a.m.

The fire chief in Jacksonville says investigators from Tennessee Gas are going out to the scene of the pipeline explosion to start their investigation this morning.

Chief Chuck Mecum says investigators were flown in from Houston last night.

He says there are no longer any safety concerns at the site.  All fires have been put out and the air quality in the area is good.

Mecum says all families were allowed to return to homes that were close to the blast site last night as well.


Now that the flames are out and everyone is ok, the focus moves to finding out what caused a natural gas line explosion in Morgan County.

The State Fire Marshal's Office is one of the agencies investigating what happened to the Tennessee Gas Line around 8:30 Wednesday morning.

Cathy Sayers lived in a farmhouse in Homer Township near where the line ruptured.

Her home burned to the ground.

She's relying on her family to get back on her feet.

"We got kids in town and my sister and my brother will take me in til we can do something.  We'll be fine.  We got family," says Sayers.

Danny Dillahay's family lives near Sayers.  

Their home didn't burn but he says the family was terrified when they heard the explosion.

"So we ran out of the house, no shoes no socks, and ran about two miles over the ridge, barefoot, though the woods. My kids were so sick, they were puking on me, cause we all feared for our lives. We though we were going to die," says Dillahay. "We seriously thought that it was the end of the world. The noise and when I kicked the front door open, I looked at my wife and said, we got to run! She's like 'I don't think we can make it' and I'm like 'we got to because we're going to die here."

Dillahay's family is not allowed back into their house until inspectors say it's safe.