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NTSB releases preliminary report on Lincoln County pipeline explosion

Posted at 3:11 PM, Oct 08, 2019
and last updated 2019-10-09 05:30:38-04

(LEX 18) — The National Transportation Safety Board has released their preliminary report following a Lincoln County natural gas pipeline explosion that resulted in the death of one person.

The report said that on August 1, around 1:23 a.m., a 30-inch-diameter pipeline ruptured in Lincoln County. That pipeline was owned and operated by Enbridge Inc.

Below is a breakdown of what the report found:

  • The rupture released about 6 million cubic feet of natural gas, which ignited
  • One person died (Lisa Denise Derringer, 58-years-old)
  • Six people were hospitalized
  • Seventy-five residents from the Indian Camp Mobile Home Park were evacuated
  • Five nearby residences were destroyed by the blaze
  • Fourteen residences were damaged by the blaze
  • About 30 acres of land were burned, including railroad tracks owned and operated by Norfolk Southern Corporation.
  • A 33.2 foot-long section of the pipeline was ejected as a result of the explosion and landed 481 feet southwest of the rupture site.

The NTSB report stated that the rate-of-change gas pressure alarm was received at 1:24 a.m. for Line 15, according to data provided by Enbridge from its gas control center in Houston, Texas.

The operator of the Danville, Kentucky compressor station told investigators that he could see the blaze from the compressor station. The affected pipeline segment was isolated as emergency crews worked to evacuate residents of the Indian Camp Mobile Home Park. The natural gas fire was reported under control by emergency crews at 2:56 a.m.

There are three Enbridge pipelines at that location. The report said they transport natural gas from Pennsylvania to Mississippi through a common corridor. On August 8, 2019, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) issued a corrective action order to Enbridge. This orders an operator to address conditions PHMSA considers hazardous to people, property, or the environment.

As a result of the rupture, Enbridge isolated and shut down all three of the pipelines in the area. Until PHMSA approves Line 15 to return to full service, Line 15 will be isolated from the adjacent pipelines and will operate at or below 80 percent.

The ruptured pipe was put in service in 1957 and produced by A.O Smith Corporation. The rupture happened near pipeline milepost 423.4. When first constructed, gas in Line 15 flowed south-to-north, but in 2014 Enbridge reversed the gas flow north-to-south. Gas was flowing north-to-south through Line 15 at the time of the rupture and was operating at 925 psig.

The report reads that Enbridge performed in-line inspections in 2011, 2018 and 2019. The report reads that investigators are "reviewing and reassessing the in-line inspection data from the area of the rupture."

Line 15 ruptured in November 2003, but no fatalities or injuries occurred in that incident. That rupture was near pipeline milepost 501.72. The NTSB did not investigate that rupture.

The investigation by the NTSB is ongoing, with the future focus being on Enbridge's inspection and maintenance of the pipeline. Further investigation will also focus on High Consequence Area determination, as the area where the rupture occurred was not designated by Enbridge as a High Consequence Area (HCA). An HCA is defined by the U.S. Department of Transportation as, "a location that is specially defined in pipeline safety regulations (Title 49 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Chapter I, Subchapter D “Pipeline Safety”) as an area where pipeline releases could have greater consequences to health and safety or the environment."

The investigation will also look at public awareness about the pipeline, Enbridge's emergency isolation procedures and metallurgical evaluation of the pipe. NTSB will also look into inspection abnormalities and the 2003 rupture.

Enbridge released a statement on the NTSB's preliminary report, "Enbridge continues to support the NTSB in its investigation. We are committed to ensuring the safety and reliability of our infrastructure across North America and we are eager to take the learnings of NTSB’s forthcoming final report and apply them to our comprehensive operations and maintenance practices and programs moving forward."

You can read the full preliminary report on the Lincoln County pipeline explosion here.

Evacuations

Two of the people who had to leave their home that August morning were Jodie and Denver Coulter, who lived in the community of Moreland. The couple said they feared for their lives but pushed forward until they could reach a main road.

"You can feel the heat. It's like running towards you, like it's trying to catch up to you. I could feel the skin on my arms start to bubble," said Jodie in an interview with LEX 18. "It was like you were in the middle of a tornado, but it was a fire tornado and you really didn't know which way to run."

Jodie Coulter was treated for burns at a local hospital. After she was released, the Coulters met up with relatives at the New Hope Baptist Church, which was providing evacuees with food, water, and a place to rest during the chaos.

The explosion destroyed the couple's home, but they said they couldn't focus on what they lost, deciding instead to focus in their next steps.

"We can worry about all that stuff later," said Denver. "I’m just thankful that we got out of there, because it didn't look like we were going to get out."

Other residents said the explosion lit up everything around them. Flames nearly 300 feet tall could be seen from miles away.

"It woke us up and it was just a big roar and it was fire going up into the sky as far as you could see," said Sue Routin. "Our windows were shaking really bad, and our doors and the ground, you could hear the ground just moving and tumbling and rolling. And then we got to feeling the heat from the fire, so we got in our vehicle and took off to get away from it."

Witnesses say things will never be the same.

"I can't sleep at night, my wife's afraid to sleep at night, she sleeps in the daytime," William Coulter told LEX 18.

William says he has experienced a change in his voice since the explosion saying, a well as other heath problems, "I'm weak, I'm nervous. I never was like that, that's bad."

The health department and CDC interviewed first responders and people who live closest to the explosion area to assess potential health problems caused by the explosion.

See photos sent in from LEX 18 viewers here.

Lisa Derringer

The family of Lisa Derringer, who died as a result of the explosion, has filed a lawsuit against Enbridge. The lawsuit states that Derringer was trying to run for her life and call her family. Attorneys are suing for gross negligence and wrongful death, claiming Enbridge failed in many areas, including, not properly monitoring gas flow ad failing to properly construct and design the pipeline that blew up.

"There's almost always, in these types of events, warning signs or things they could have done along the way to prevent this from happening," Attorney Kyle Findley told LEX 18 in an interview via Facetime. "Under no circumstances should communities live in fear."

The Houston-based law firm is also representing "a handful of other families" impacted by the explosion in Lincoln County.

Derringer was described by her family as a, "long time truck driver and loved her grandchildren and animals." She was laid to rest in her home state of Indiana where her loved ones said a flatbed truck carried her to her final resting place.