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Accident Report Detail

San Juan Gas Company, Inc./Enron Corp. Propane Gas Explosion

Executive Summary

About 8:30 a.m. on November 21, 1996, because of a propane gas leak, a commercial building in San Juan, Puerto Rico, exploded. Thirty-three people were killed, and at least 69 were injured. The building was in Rió Piedras, a shopping district in San Juan. The structure was a six story mixture of offices and stores owned by Humberto Vidal, Inc. The company’s administrative offices occupied the third, fourth, fifth, and sixth floors, and the first and second floors housed a jewelry store, a record store, and a shoe store.

Probable Cause

​The National Transportation Safety Board determines that the probable cause of the propane gas explosion, fueled by an excavation caused gas leak, in the basement of the Humberto Vidal, Inc., office building was the failure of San Juan Gas Company, Inc., (1) to oversee its employees’ actions to ensure timely identification and correction of unsafe conditions and strict adherence to operating practices and (2) to provide adequate training to employees.

Also contributing to the explosion was (1) the failure of the Research and Special Programs Administration/Office of Pipeline Safety to oversee effectively the pipeline safety program in Puerto Rico, (2) the failure of the Puerto Rico Public Service Commission to require San Juan Gas Company, Inc., to correct identified safety deficiencies, and (3) the failure of Enron Corp. to oversee adequately the operation of San Juan Gas Company, Inc.

Accident Location: San Juan , PR    
Accident Date: 11/21/1996
Accident ID: DCA97MP004

Date Adopted: 12/23/1997
NTSB Number: PAR-97-01
NTIS Number: PB97-916501