Wednesday , May 29 2024

State Report: Front-Loader Hit Pipe Causing Gun Range Explosion

The first of what experts believe will be a series of explanations for the deadly gas explosion near Herndon and Hwy 99 was released Monday evening.

At the time of the explosion the front-end loader was being driven by a Fresno County employee on a road that sat above the shooting range. The explosion injured the driver, two deputies, and eight inmates working at the range. One of the inmates has died from his injuries.

After months of wondering what caused the massive gas explosion at the Fresno Sheriff’s Foundation gun range in April, Exponent (a consulting firm for the California Public Utilities Commission) offered this conclusion in a 260 page report.
"Our investigation indicates that PG&E line 118b ruptured when it was struck by a front loader

that was operating in the area at the time of the incident. the significant gouging, scraping and

deformation present at the line 118b rupture location could have only been caused by contact

with the front-loader bucket," This taken from the executive summary of the report.

"It’s an expert hired by PG&E called Exponent. So it is a retained expert. They are hardly a neutral expert," said Butch Wagner, a Fresno attorney who represents four of the working inmates injured in the explosion.

He believes the detailed report with a first glimpse at the ruptured pipe– and explanation of how it happened– lacks details on the pipe itself prior to the explosion.

"The explosion ripped the ground up and set the ground all over the place. There is no way to tell from the aftermath how deep that pipe was buried," said Wagner. 
While this report says the front-loader is solely responsible for the explosion, legal experts believe contrasting opinions are coming in a Fresno County investigation.

"I would expect that each entity that’s been sued is going to try to limit their own liability and point the finger at the others," said Fresno attorney Charles Magill. 

Attorneys say this case is most likely still a year away from any kind of a trial. A large sum of money is at stake for whoever is determined liable for the explosion. At this point, plenty of interviewing and investigating going on as each side builds their case. 

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