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Accident Report Detail

Gas Service Company, Explosion and Fire

Executive Summary

On Wednesday, January 10, 1979, personnel employed by the Gas Service Company, Inc.,began installing regulators to increase the gas pressure in a downtown business section of London, Kentucky. The 7-inch-diameter bare steel gas main was to be uprated from 4 ounces to 17 psig pressure. Personnel continued through the weekend and repaired some leaks where detected.

At 9:30 p.m. e.s.t., on Tuesday, January 16, 1979, natural gas, which had escaped from a large corrosion hole in the 7-inch steel gas main and had accumulated in several buildings nearby, exploded and then burned. Five buildings were destroyed, two adjacent buildings were damaged extensively, windows within a five-block radius were shattered, and a truck was damaged. Two persons were injured slightly.

Probable Cause

The National Transportation Safety Board determines that the probable cause of the accident was the ignition of an accumulation of natural gas which had leaked from an existing corrosion hole in a 7-inch steel gas main when the pressure was increased suddenly from 4 ounces to 17 psig in one step. Contributing to the accident was the failure of gas company personnel to conduct an adequate leak survey, using combustible gas indicators (CGI),and to check adjacent sewer manholes during the period the gas pressure was increased. A possible source of ignition was a spark from electric motor in a beverage cooler.

Accident Location: London , KY    
Accident Date: 1/16/1979
Accident ID: 80234

Date Adopted: 8/16/1979
NTSB Number: PAR-79-02
NTIS Number: PB-299850/AS

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