Pipeline Accident

​​​​ ​ ​​​​Pipeline banner image.

​Pipeline accident investigations typically refer to investigations involving accidents occurring during the transport of natural gas or other hazardous liquids, such as gasoline or propane, through pipeline systems and accidents in which public safety is threatened by the release of hazardous substances.

Please review our Information for Survivors, Families, and Friends Brochure ​ that describes what survivors, family, and friends can expect throughout a pipeline accident investigation by the NTSB and additional details related to the information provided below.

Assistance for Pipeline Accident Investigations

​Although there is no requirement for TDA to respond to pipeline accidents, our specialists work with the NTSB’s investigator-in-charge (IIC) who is responsible for leading the safety investigation and local and state agencies to coordinate assistance and information for survivors, family, and friends, either by telephone or on-scene if ​deployed to the accident location. TDA remains a primary point of contact to survivors, family, and friends during the course of the investigation and we provide updates on the release of information associated with the investigation.​

Short-term Counseling & Referrals

​​Short-term emotional support services and referrals are available at the request of survivors, families, or friends at no cost through our partnership with the American Red Cross. Additional information can be provided about these support services upon reques​t.

Victim Identification Process

​​Victim recovery, identification, determination of cause and manner of death, and death certification are the responsibility of the medical examiner or coroner in the jurisdiction where the death occurred. TDA can provide contact information for the appropriate local authority upon request.

Personal Effects

​​The NTSB may take custody of personal effects relevant to the investigation. Depending on condition, these items may be returned to the owner or a designated​ family member typically at the conclusion of the investigation. Personal effects not collected by the NTSB may be collected by the medical examiner or coroner, law enforcement or another agency involved in the response. TDA can assist with questions about personal effects retained by the NTSB or provide contact information for other agencies that may have personal effects in their custody if known.​

Accident Wreckage

​​The NTSB has the authority to retain control of and manage access to the accident wreckage during the investigation. TDA can assist with questions regarding status of wreckage retained by the NTSB.

Media Interactions

​TDA does not coordinate i​nterviews with media for survivors, family members, or friends; however, media representatives may attempt to make contact after a crash occurs. The NTSB will not release the identities of victims or survivors of accidents, but this information may be released by the transportation operator involved or local authorities where the accident occurred.

Pipeline Accident Investigation Process

​​Due to the possible complexity of pipeline accidents and the extensive nature of the investigation process, a pipeline accident investigation often requires 12 to 24 months to complete. Depending on the circumstances of the accident, the IIC along with other NTSB investigators and party members may travel to the accident location to collect information. The NTSB has the authority to designate organizations, corporations, or agencies as parties to the investigation. Only representatives who can provide technical or specialized expertise are permitted to serve as a party member and report directly to the NTSB. The NTSB will not determine the cause of an accident while on scene.

The following are reports and products that can be issued during the investigation:

  • The preliminary report provides a synopsis of factual information collected during the on-scene phase of the investigation. This report is typically available a few weeks after the accident.
  • The final report provides a summary of relevant factual information, analysis, findings, probable cause, and safety recommendations issued or reiterated as a result of the investigation.
  • An accident brief consists of a short accident narrative, probable cause, and if issued, safety recommendations.

The report or brief replaces the preliminary report and is typically available 12 to 24 months following the accident.

You can access NTSB reports by searching the NTSB’s Case Analysis and Reporting Online Search​ (CAROL). 

An accident docket contains relevant factual information collected during an accident investigation that is used in the development of reports, briefs, and if issued, safety recommendations. The docket is available to access at an appropriate time during the investigation, or at its conclusion.

Many investigations result in safety recommendations or safety alerts. The NTSB can issue these at any time during the investigation process.          

Staying Informed

​If you are requesting information related to a pipeline accident investigation, please complete an Investigation Update Request Form, or ​ contact us at assistance@ntsb.gov for additional assistance​.

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