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NTSB report on deadly Colonial Pipeline explosion

Updated: Dec. 12, 2019 at 10:45 PM CST
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SHELBY CO., Ala. (WBRC) - The NTSB released the accident report in that deadly Colonial Pipeline explosion in Shelby County on October 31, 2016.

According to investigators on October 31 at 2:47 p.m. while excavating, a contractor damaged the Colonial Pipeline Company’s refined liquid petroleum transmission pipeline, known as Line 1, near Helena.

The damage resulted in a release of gasoline from the pipeline, which ignited and burned for several days.

Two excavation crew workers died, and four other workers were injured.

The NTSB determined the probable cause of the explosion was “the excavation crew’s inadequate planning, coordination, and communication during the excavation and failure to adhere to company policy requiring hand excavation if closer than two feet from the top or bottom of the pipeline until the pipeline has been exposed, which allowed the track-hoe to damage the pipeline.”

NTSB report on deadly pipeline explosion
NTSB report on deadly pipeline explosion(NTSB)

Here's a witness report in that NTSB report:

At 2:47 p.m., according to the Superior Land Designs project inspector, he heard what he thought at the time was the bucket of the track-hoe scratching rock on the third scratch of the track-hoe bucket and then “a wall of gasoline” struck him in the face, spraying from the excavation site. He also stated that upon seeing the released gasoline, he was concerned that a fire would start. He stated that he screamed at the L.E. Bell crewmembers to run, and he turned and ran toward the nearby wooded area. The L.E. Bell superintendent told NTSB investigators that he saw the track-hoe operator walking away from the spraying gasoline, but then he saw him turn around and walk back toward the spray when the fire ignited. The L.E. Bell superintendent told NTSB investigators that he saw sparks close to a nearby power line just prior to ignition. There were also several internal combustion engines operating at the time of the fire ignition.

In the aftermath several lawsuits were filed against Colonial Pipeline.

NTSB report on deadly pipeline explosion
NTSB report on deadly pipeline explosion(NTSB)

“Investigation and interview is complete and we’re preparing the information to publish for the report - what you have is a company that is taking all of their procedures and putting a microscope on them and saying okay, how can we prevent this from happening ever again?” said NATB Investigator Roger Evans.

You can read the full NTSB report by clicking on this link.

Colonial Pipeline released the following statement:

"Colonial Pipeline is aware of the brief filed by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) regarding the investigation of the pipeline incident on October 31, 2016. We have also made our own submission to the NTSB.

We are pleased the NTSB has completed its investigation. We stand by the facts in the Colonial submission. We are limited in what we can say about the matter due to ongoing legal proceedings.

Colonial remains committed to transporting refined energy products safely and reliably in a manner that protects people, communities and the environment where our facilities and pipelines are located. We have an extensive program to monitor and maintain our pipeline system, which is overseen by our Vice President of Operations and Chief Risk Officer. This includes our Pipeline Safety Management System (SMS), integrity management program, use of technology, and our public awareness program, which focuses on sharing safe excavation practices.

Colonial has been and will remain committed to a systematic approach to safety that is integrated throughout the company."

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