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Feds release investigative docs on Lincoln County pipeline blast

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Posted at 10:31 AM, Mar 15, 2021

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Heat from a deadly gas pipeline explosion in Kentucky burned so hot it melted the siding on a home 1,100 feet away, according to a federal investigation.

The rupture of the 30-inch-width regional gas pipeline in August 2019 in Lincoln County killed a woman and sent five others to the hospital. The National Transportation Safety Board, which is investigating the blast, released hundreds of files related to the investigation this week.

The NTSB said a probable cause determination of the explosion would be issued in a final report at a later date.

The pipeline is operated by Canadian-based Enbridge Inc. The explosion scorched the ground around the pipeline, destroyed five homes and burned about 30 acres of land. The flame was visible at least 38 miles away from the accident site, the NTSB said.

The heat from the blast killed 58-year-old Lisa Denise Derringer. Five other people suffered minor burns and smoke inhalation, according to the NTSB documents. State police investigators said at the time that Derringer may have seen or heard the explosion and tried to flee.

The high heat kept police officers from initially recovering Derringer’s body, which was lying several hundred feet away from the site of the blast.

A deputy sheriff who discovered the body had to turn away because of the intense heat. Her body was later recovered by officers who had to don fire protection garments, the report said.

It took hours for firefighters to douse the flames, with trucks repeatedly refilling their tanks and returning to the scene.

The NTSB said about 3,600 pages of documents about the blast are in the docket that was released online this week.

Andrea Grover, Enbridge director of U.S. public affairs and stakeholder engagement, said the incident is a "stark reminder that safely maintaining and operating our pipelines is our first priority."

Grover said Enbridge received a corrective action order from the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration after the explosion.

"Enbridge takes these issues very seriously," she said. "We addressed all the site-specific concerns identified by PHMSA and undertook rigorous inspections on the pipelines in compliance with the CAO before returning the pipelines to service."

Grover said the company cannot comment specifically on the incident details because of the federal authorities' investigation, but said Enbridge is committed to making its pipelines safer than ever.

LEX 18 News spoke to an attorney representing 85 people impacted by the explosion. Most of them lived within a mile and a half of the site, and are involved in a lawsuit against Enbridge.

"Seeking compensation for the injuries which they've sustained, whether it's the physical injury, the psychological injury, the emotional injury. The disruption in their lives," said Attorney Ephraim Helton.

Helton went on to say that he believes the report will be favorable to their side.

"Because there are some findings that Enbridge failed to label this as a high-concentration area, which we believe it was. It's built very close proximity to a railroad line, Norfolk Southern, so we all know when railway cars go through what shaking it causes in the ground," said Helton.

Enbridge pipelines carry about one-quarter of the crude oil produced in North America and one-fifth of the natural gas used in the U.S. Several of its pipelines have been the subjects of lengthy legal and political fights and two of the largest inland oil spills in U.S. history.

One of those spills, a 2010 release of more than 1 million gallons of sludgy tar sand soil into a Michigan creek polluted a nearly 40-mile stretch of the Kalamazoo River. The Environmental Protection Agency described it as the most expensive inland oil spill in U.S. history, with a four-year cleanup costing more than $1 billion.