Mother of gas line explosion victim says son is ‘strong,’ courageous’
by WPXI, May 16, 2016
In light of a gas explosion that shook Salem Township and left one man severely burned late last month, a protest was held Monday to put an end to pipeline build-out.
“Wherever I have to go. I don’t care if I have to travel to Philadelphia, this has to be done,” Helen Baker, who is the mother of the man burned in the April 29 blast, told Channel 11 News.
Carrying signs of support, Helen Baker and other family members of burn victim James Baker joined Pennsylvanians Against Fracking to protest pipeline work in communities such as Salem Township.
“This is something that James would want. He wants everyone to know that these pipelines are dangerous and none of us want it to happen to anyone, what happened to him, and what he’s going through right now,” Helen Baker said.
James Baker was inside a home that was about 500 feet away from the blast. Despite having ankle surgery days earlier, he escaped and ran down Route 819 as the house was destroyed. He suffered burns across his body, and underwent a third surgery Friday.
“He’s doing as best as he can, considering what happened to him Friday morning. He’s very strong, he’s very courageous and, again, I stress the prayers. We thank you for the prayers and the donations, everything. Please keep them coming,” Helen Baker said.
Monday’s protest called on Gov. Tom Wolf to halt the construction of pipelines, including one reported on by Target 11 that is only a couple of miles from the line that exploded and will carry natural gas liquids from Marcellus Shale through Pennsylvania.
What’s coming out of Spectra’s Pipe?
Snap from drone footage: Sky 4 surveys the damage by WTAE, Apr 29, 2016
Corrosion found on Texas Eastern pipeline that exploded Friday by Anya Litvak, May 4, 2016, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
The Texas Eastern pipeline explosion that injured one man, damaged several homes and disrupted natural gas flows to the northeast on Friday involved a pipeline that federal investigators said had corroded in at least two places.
The U.S Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration cautioned that “the cause of failure is unknown at this time, and the investigation is ongoing,” in a document on Wednesday.
A preliminary investigation, however, revealed corrosion along two welds. One was located right where the pipeline ruptured and another was in a section of the pipe excavated after the accident.
“The pattern of corrosion indicates a possible flaw in the coating material applied to girth weld joints following construction welding procedures in the field at that time,” the agency wrote.
Experts warn that a preliminary finding is often amended or reversed entirely during the cause of an investigation, which could span months or even years.
Spectra Energy, which operates the 30-inch diameter pipeline that burst and three others alongside it as part of the Texas Eastern system that stretches some 9,000 miles from the Gulf Coast to New York, has not resumed service at its Delmont Compressor station yet.
The compressor was processing some 1.3 billion cubic feet of gas a day before the accident, which is about 7 percent of all the gas produced in the Marcellus Shale daily. [Emphasis added]
Salem residents, gas firm shift focus to recovery after pipeline explosion by Debra Erdley, April 30, 2016, Tribune Review
Portions of Route 819 from Boggs Hollow Road to Route 22 will remain closed through Monday as crews clear debris on the highway and replace utility poles destroyed by fire, Forbes Road fire Chief Robert Rosatti said.
Rosatti asked that the public respect the barriers set up around the blast site.
“We still have a potentially dangerous situation here,” Rosatti said.
How to help
Friends and family of the Bakers have set up a GoFundMe account: gofundme.com/2q6pqa8c
Randy Gillis pushed back the brim of his baseball cap and looked at charred hillsides that had produced crops and pastured cows on his family’s Salem acreage since the 1930s.
“I don’t think they’ll be back in production in my lifetime,” the 49-year-old farmer said, surveying the field that was ground zero of a natural gas pipeline explosion Friday morning.
The blast rattled windows for miles, critically burned a man, melted siding on nearby homes and triggered a spike in the natural gas price in U.S. commodity markets.
“This is obviously a significant piece of the U.S. energy infrastructure,” Spectra Energy spokesman Phil West said Saturday afternoon. Employees of the Houston-based company, which operates the pipeline, were working to bleed pressure from three transmission lines buried on the same right of way as the ruptured line. West said the three lines will be inspected for damage.
The region around the explosion site is a nexus for transmission lines that cross half the country, moving natural gas throughout the Northeast from fields as far away as Texas and as near as the Marcellus shale.
It’s about a mile from one of the nation’s largest underground natural gas storage facilities, where more than 120 billion cubic feet of gas can be stored deep underground in the sandstone strata that extends from near Delmont to Jeannette.
There were concerns about natural gas shortages after the disruption Friday, but West said customers have been able to obtain gas elsewhere.
Spectra’s priorities are helping those affected by the blast — which had a radius of about a half-mile — and determining what triggered the rupture in the 30-inch line, West said.
It was installed in 1981 and last inspected in 2012. West said that inspection was done — as required every seven years — with a device that travels through the lines. The check showed no problems. He said other reviews are conducted between such inspections.
“There are claims adjusters on the ground (Saturday) meeting with homeowners who were affected. Our interest is to take care of any of those who were affected.
“We don’t have any indication of the cause, and that’s why the (U.S.) Department of Transportation (which oversees interstate pipeline traffic) is here with us,” West said.
BURN VICTIM REMAINS CRITICAL
“Our thoughts and prayers are with the individual who was injured and his family,” West said, a reference to James Baker, 26, who was listed in critical condition in UPMC Mercy’s burn unit.
The explosion seared about 40 acres of the 150-acre cattle farm where Gillis, his wife, Wendy, and their three children live. It destroyed a brick ranch-style house along Route 819 that the Gillises have rented to the Bakers for several years.
Kellie Baker left for work before the explosion. Her husband was at home recuperating from surgery on a broken ankle when the explosion shot flames 300 feet into the air.
Wendy Gillis said neighbors have rallied around the family, asking what they can do for the Bakers.
“A neighbor brought down $200 this morning for James and Kellie, and a lady at the bank … handed me $100 this morning,” she said.
Friends and family have set up a GoFundMe page.
James Baker’s mother, Helen Baker of Delmont, said the couple lost everything in the blast and her son faces a long, painful recovery.
“He is such a kind, tender boy,” she said. “Everybody has been wonderful. People from Pittsburgh to Florida have reached out to us.”
The blast, which Helen Baker said left her son with third-degree burns on half of his body, seared away topsoil, leaving a red blanket of clay around the Bakers’ home. It destroyed two fields of hay, three fields of barley and two fields where Gillis planned to plant corn this month.
“I’ll be buying hay and food this summer and winter,” he said.
Had the explosion occurred a week later, it would have claimed his 75-head herd of Black Angus cattle, Gillis said. The cows were in their winter pasture near Gillis’ farmhouse Friday morning.
‘THERE’S NOTHING LEFT’
Gillis said he was in the barn cleaning out cattle pens when the line exploded several hundred yards away.
“I grabbed the dogs, got in the truck and took off,” Gillis said.
His wife, a special education teacher, was at work at West Point Elementary School in Hempfield when she got her husband’s chilling phone call.
“He … said, ‘When you come home, there’s not going to be anything left of this place,’ ” Wendy Baker recalled.
The topography acted as a fire break, sparing the family’s barns, outbuildings and farmhouse, as well as their cattle.
Randy Gillis said state Rep. Eric Nelson has stopped to see him several times and local fire departments guarded the blast site in four-hour shifts through Friday night. They remained there Saturday afternoon with Spectra security guards and inspectors and Transportation Department staffers.
“We’re still at the same point we were at yesterday,” said Robert Rosatti, chief of the Forbes Road Volunteer Fire Department. “We still have some gas in the lines and it will take a while to bleed it off. Our biggest concern, as with Spectra Energy, is public safety.”
Debra Erdley is a Tribune-Review staff writer. She can be reached at 412-320-7996.
Snaps from drone footage: Sky 4 surveys incredible damage at gas pipeline explosion site by WTAE, Apr 29, 2016
Man injured in gas well explosion near Pittsburgh by Doug Stanglin, April 29, 2016, USA TODAY
An explosion at a natural gas pipeline east of Pittsburgh sent a fireball into the air Friday and destroyed at least one nearby home. A resident was burned while fleeing the scene, authorities said.
“It looked like you were looking down into hell,” said Forbes Road Volunteer Fire Chief Bob Rosatti, the Associated Press reported.
The fire erupted in Salem Township, about 30 miles east of Pittsburgh in Westmoreland County, and forced the evacuation of about a dozen homes in a quarter-mile zone, said state Department of Environmental Protection spokesman John Poister.
The pipeline was shut off and the fire brought under control within an hour, although it was several hours before the flames were completely out.
The man who was burned lived in the house closest to the fire that was destroyed, according to the AP. “He told us that he heard a loud noise and compared it to a tornado. All he saw was fire and started running up the roadway and a passerby picked him up,” Rosatti said.
According to police radio traffic, emergency teams attempted at one point to remove a “nonambulatory patient” who was alone in a farmhouse nearby. He was described as unable to move because of recent back surgery and had reported his house as “very hot.”
The explosion occurred around the area of Route 22 and Route 819 in Salem, Pa.
The state Department of Environmental Protection said the blast was traced to a 36-inch pipeline owned by Texas Eastern Transmission in an area where a conventional well is located, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported. The cause was unknown.
Natural gas explosion in Salem Township: Injuries reported, evacuations underway by WTAE, Apr 29, 2016
SALEM TOWNSHIP, Pa. —Crews are responding to a natural gas explosion Friday in Salem Township, Westmoreland County, where at least one injury has been reported and evacuations are underway in the immediate area.
The blast and resulting fire happened around 8:30 a.m. in the area of Route 22 at Route 819. The total number of people injured and the severity of the injuries is unknown.
The explosion involved a pipeline owned by Texas Eastern, which has shut off the gas and sent personnel to the site, according to Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection spokesman John Poister.
The cause of the blast isn’t immediately clear. The explosion caused flames to shoot above nearby treetops in the largely rural area.
Poister said the residual gases are being allowed to burn off, a process that is expected to take several hours.
Viewers have been calling the WTAE newsroom with reports of feeling a shock-wave from the explosion, and sharing photos and videos from the scene.
Gas well explosion reported in Westmoreland County by WPXI, Apr 29, 2016
Emergency crews were called to a report of a gas well explosion in Westmoreland County Friday morning.
The explosion was reported shortly before 8:30 a.m. along Route 22 near Route 819 in Salem Township.
Channel 11’s news exchange partners at TribLIVE are reporting that one person was injured. A medical helicopter was called for the victim.
At one point, the fire was blowing across Route 819. The area was evacuated.
Route 22 was restricted to one lane in the area.
The Department of Environmental Protection sent workers to the scene, according to spokesperson John Poister.
Poister told Channel 11 News the fire was at a conventional well site on Croft Road, and there is also a pipeline that runs through the area.
Firefighters from several departments were called in to fight the fire, which appeared to be under control shortly after 9:30 a.m. The gas has been shut off. [Emphasis added]