Saturday , May 25 2024

Explosion Victim Feels Lucky to be Alive

A pipeline explosion victim has been released from Fresno County jail and says he feels lucky to be alive. Today, Sam Ouk spoke exclusively with us about the explosion that happened almost two months ago at the Fresno County Sheriff’s gun range, several people were injured.

This morning Sam Ouk walked out of jail a free man but with a fiery brush with death burned into his consciousness. "It was hot, extremely hot, hotter than fire, flames from hell," Ouk said.

Ouk suffered burns on his head, face, neck, hands and right arm during the pipeline explosion at the gun range. He was a part of an inmate work crew picking up shell casings.

"About maybe 40 feet away from it, luckily we were behind a wall," Ouk said. A wall that potentially saved his life. A Fresno County worker was operating a tractor at the gun range when the gas line exploded.

A few days later Ouk filed a lawsuit against PG&E for medical expenses, general damages and lost wages. His attorney, Butch Wagner said the preliminary investigation shows PG&E may be at fault.

"The governmental requirement is for that pipeline to be buried 39 inches deep and from our preliminary investigation, it was not buried deep enough so that’s the basis for the lawsuit," Wagner said.

The cause of the explosion is still being investigated by the California Public Utilities Commission and they have not released any information. Four other inmates who were also serving a sentence on misdemeanor charges have also joined the lawsuit.

"They have anywhere from minor to moderate burns on various parts of their bodies so they’ll be scarring theres a lot of pain associated with it," Wagner said.

Jeremiah Espino,52, died from his injuries last month. According to the Sheriff’s Department, today no inmates remain hospitalized. Their injuries not just physical, also emotional.

Ouk said "Every day I think about it, about my fellow inmates"

The county worker operating the tractor, Ismael Arreazola is still hospitalized, his family says he is making progress each day. The remaining inmates who were injured in the explosion are set to be released from jail in the coming weeks.

PG&E issued the following statement:

Our thoughts and prayers remain with those injured in the incident and their families.

The investigations into the incident are still ongoing and we aren’t going to prejudge their outcome. However, we do know several things.

In 2013, we measured approximately 40 inches of cover over the pipe near this segment as part of our GPS survey. Our initial post-incident measurements are consistent with this information.

The pipeline was clearly marked, as there are pipeline markers visible on both sides of the incident scene.

We also conducted numerous aerial patrols on the pipeline, looking for construction over the pipeline and no activity or construction was observed at the incident location.

This segment was successfully leak surveyed numerous times in recent years, including an aerial leak survey the day before the incident.

There were no indications of a leak or signs of construction at the location the day before the incident.

There was no call placed to 811 before work was begun on the site. California code 4216(b), pasted below, explains circumstances in which 811 must be called.

4216(b) "Excavation" means any operation in which earth, rock, or other material in the ground is moved, removed, or otherwise displaced by means of tools, equipment, or explosives in any of the following ways: grading, trenching, digging, ditching, drilling, augering, tunneling, scraping, cable or pipe plowing and driving, or any other way."

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