Riverside County

Utility Worker Killed, 15 Injured in Natural Gas Line Explosion at Murrieta Home

Firefighters injured in a natural gas explosion that killed a Southern California Gas Co. technician and destroyed a Murrieta home were recovering at home Tuesday, while residents in the immediate vicinity of the decimated property remain displaced.

According to Murrieta Fire & Rescue, the three firemen who suffered minor injuries when the explosion occurred about noon Monday in the 23500 block of Wooden Horse Trail were treated and released from Inland Valley Medical Center in Wildomar.

SoCalGas representatives said a technician who was hurt in the blast has also been released from the hospital. There was no word on the status of the nearly dozen civilians who suffered varying injuries, non life-threatening.

The name of the technician fatally injured while trying to mend the ruptured gas line has not been disclosed. However, SoCalGas confirmed that he had worked for the utility about 14 years.

According to reports from the scene, four properties have been red-tagged by the fire department due to the considerable damage inflicted by the explosion.

The home at ground zero was leveled.

An evacuation order remains in place for properties between 23548 and 23582 Wooden Horse Trail, according to Murrieta Fire & Rescue.

Twenty residents were referred to a care reception center at Vista Murrieta High School on Clinton Keith Road on Monday, authorities said.

It was unknown how many stayed overnight.

According to Murrieta Fire & Rescue Deputy Chief David Lantzer, crews initially responded to the home on Wooden Horse Trail, near Spicewood Avenue, at 10:57 a.m. Monday because of a breached gas main.

Officials said a solar contractor, who did not call SoCalGas in advance to have gas lines marked, split the line while doing installation work.

A utility crew arrived at 11:23 a.m. to begin repairs, but at 12:10 p.m., an explosion occurred, Lantzer said.

"We are incredibly saddened that we have a loss of one of our employees ... at this incident," SoCalGas spokesman Randon Lane said.

SoCalGas Vice President of Construction Cedric Williams said confirming where gas lines are present prior to any type of construction work is required by state law.

"We urge all contractors and homeowners to ensure that 811 is called and utility lines are marked prior to excavation of any sort," Williams said.

"No matter what you're doing -- if you're digging, call 811, even if the work doesn't involve natural gas or natural gas appliances, as was apparently the case here."

According to SoCalGas, utility crews stopped the flow of gas to the property about 1 p.m.

Murrieta police closed Clinton Keith Road to all traffic from Nutmeg Street to Carrington Street. It was re-opened about 8 p.m. Monday.

Copyright CNS - City News Service
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