Tuesday , May 28 2024

State Report Places Blame on Fresno County in Deadly Pipeline Explosion

A state report is placing the blame on Fresno County in the PG&E pipeline explosion that happened April 17 at the Fresno County Peace Officers gun range in northwest Fresno.

The explosion happened when a county worker was doing some work with a front loader. He was injured, along with two deputies, and eight inmates, one of which later died.

The 259-page report was prepared by a company called Exponent, which was selected by PG&E. The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) is now leading the direction of the investigation and overseeing it.

The report says, "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."

Attorney Butch Wagner represents four of the injured inmates. He says there’s no question that the front loader came in contact with the pipe, but says that’s not the issue.

"[Whether] the pipeline was buried properly–in other words, deep enough and with proper soil compaction," Wagner said.

According to the report, the pipe had enough coverage. But Wagner criticizes that finding.

"I don’t know how they could’ve determined that by looking at the evidence after the explosion because the explosion ripped the ground up, set the ground all over the place," Wagner said.

The investigation is far from over. Legal analyst Charles Magill says he expects all the entities that are being sued will be pointing fingers at each other.

"The logic of it is is to limit their exposure. If it does go to trial, they want to make sure that they’re not exposed any more than a small percentage," Magill said. 

Magill expects that the inmates’ lawyers will be bringing experts of their own.

Wagner says the report doesn’t change their perspective of the case because he says additional reports will be filed by all the entities that may show negligence from all the parties that are being sued.

PG&E issued a statement saying, "PG&E continues to cooperate with the CPUC in a timely manner regarding any information about its ongoing investigation. The CPUC is the lead agency reviewing the incident. We want all of our customers to know that calling 811 before you dig is critical."

A trial date has yet to be assigned. Wagner believes a trial date could be set for a year to a year and a half in the future.

A link to the report can be found here: http://www.cpuc.ca.gov/NR/rdonlyres/A5C3630F-83A3-4326-A35C-2FAF4E0E8C90/0/1502991FresnoRuptureReport.pdf

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