By Colleen Shalby and Soumya Karlamangla
Los Angeles Times
A gas company worker was killed and 15 people were hurt in a large explosion that rocked a California neighborhood Monday.
The blast occurred at a home in the Riverside County city of Murrieta shortly after noon.
Southern California Gas Co. responded to reports of a natural gas line that was damaged by a contractor working on the home Monday morning. The explosion occurred at 12:10 p.m., after crews had arrived. The company said one of its employees was killed and another was taken to a hospital.
Three Murrieta firefighters were among the 15 injured, said Murrieta Fire & Rescue Deputy Fire Chief David Lantzer in a news briefing Monday evening. The remaining victims were civilians, he said.
Lantzer said that officials were investigating the incident, assessing the extent of the damage and working on a plan to return residents to their homes. He said no one remains unaccounted for.
Southern California Gas, the primary gas provider for Southern California, stopped the flow of gas to the property at 1 p.m.
Cedric Williams, the company’s vice president of construction, said a preliminary investigation shows that a contractor at the house did not call the utility’s designated 811 line so that workers could come mark the gas lines, as is required by law. There is no record of the contractor filing a ticket with the company, he said.
“No matter what you’re doing, if you’re digging, please call 811,” said Williams at the news briefing. “Not calling 811 makes it dangerous for everyone.”
“We are deeply saddened to learn of today’s incident which took the life of one of our employees, injured firefighters, and impacted others. Our employee was responding to reports of a damaged gas line at the home. Our focus now is on working with first responders to make the area safe, and supporting all those involved,” Southern California Gas Co. said in a statement. “We will continue to work with first responders to determine what caused the accident. Our sympathies and thoughts are with the individuals and families of those impacted.”
Following the blast, rattled residents posted reactions on Twitter, saying it shook homes in the area.
One video shows smoke covering a neighborhood on Clinton Keith Road as firefighters try to extinguish cascading flames that appear to engulf a corner home. At least three firetrucks are seen outside the house in the video.
A milelong stretch between Nutmeg Road and Smith Ranch was closed as police and firefighters tended to the scene. Neighbors had been told to keep a distance as the area remained dangerous.
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