Glouster residents sue after pipeline explosion

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Two Glouster residents are suing Tennessee Gas Pipeline Co. and its owner after a pipeline exploded two years ago, resulting in significant damage to property along Taylor Road in Morgan County.

The morning of Nov. 16, 2011 was interrupted by a gas line eruption which sent fire hundreds of feet into the air and torched more than 50 acres of land. The sound of the explosion was reportedly heard by residents as far as 15 miles from the site. Emergency responders needed nearly four hours to douse the flames.

The home of John and Kathy Sayers was only about 50 feet from the pipeline and was completely destroyed in the blast. Kathy Sayers was home at the time and survived the house’s destruction. Another home nearby was destroyed and its occupant, Brandi Stover, was also able to escape unharmed. A third, although unoccupied structure, and a barn, were also ruined. The Sayerses eventually reached a financial settlement with the gas line company for an undisclosed amount.

Friday, Gladys Sharp and Joe Hixson filed suit against Tennessee Gas Pipeline Co. and Kinder Morgan Energy Partners citing fault and asking for more than $75,0000. Kinder Morgan became the owner of Tennessee Gas Pipeline Co. several months after the explosion had occurred.

In the lawsuit, Sharp and Hixson claim that the pipeline company failed to “properly inspect, maintain, upgrade, service and operate the pipeline and discover defects with the pipeline.” They also state that the company should have known that the old line would have a likelihood of failure and that the company chose to ignore that information.

Sharp and Hixson claim that their properties along Taylor Road were damaged in the explosion and that the gas line company failed to integrate preventative measures to maintain the line’s integrity. Sharp and Hixson also claim to have suffered emotional and psychological damages.

The plaintiffs are asking for a jury to hear the case.

Attorney Sky Pettey, of Lavelle and Associates, filed the suit on behalf of Sharp and Hixson. When reached by The Messenger on Monday, Pettey referred questions to attorney John Lavelle. Lavelle did not return calls prior to The Messenger’s deadline.

A root cause analysis was conducted on the pipeline by a team of experts with Dynamic Risk USA as well as Golder Associates and members of Tennessee Gas Pipeline Co. The determined cause of the pipeline’s failure was a pre-existing crack in a girth weld of the pipeline.

The crack was attributed to “displacement produced by a landslide and an inadequate understanding by (Tennessee Gas Pipeline Co.) of the influence of the geotechnical threats on the pipeline in this location,” according to the report. Metallurgical analysis concluded that the crack, coupled with stresses from soil movement, created the explosion.

The failed pipeline was constructed in 1963 and was subject to an in-line inspection in June 2011, less than six months before the explosion.