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Company investigating west Columbus gas leak, explosion says 'human error' to blame

The explosion caused by a natural gas leak in west Columbus destroyed a building and sent people running for their lives.

An explosion caused by a natural gas leak in west Columbus destroyed a building and sent people running for their lives.

A company called UtiliQuest that works to locate gas lines for Columbia Gas says human error is to blame.

According to the Director of Safety for Team Fischel, the construction company working in the area, a crew struck an unidentified gas line Wednesday afternoon.

The ordeal began when Team Fischel construction started to drill underground. The company said it was pulling fiber optic cable. Crews struck a 6-inch medium pressure line about four and a half feet underground.

That gas then leaked into the Domino’s store and ignited, collapsing the building and sending fireballs into the sky. It took more than two hours before the gas company could pinch the line to shut off the gas.

The construction company tells 10TV it followed the laws set forth by the Ohio Utility Protection Services.

Team Fishel says it called Columbia Gas prior to digging, as required by law.

Columbia Gas says it knew where crews were digging.

The aftermath shows buckled walls, busted bricks, and shattered glass, from what was left of the Domino's pizza. But there was no loss of life.

Columbia Gas issued a statement saying it's confident that its system is safe and that the maps it provided to line location company were accurate.

The Columbus Fire Department has ruled this explosion accidental.

An online marketing video shows the type of equipment a Team Fishel employee referenced in a 911 call he made. Used by construction crews on a variety of jobs, a directional drill is what Team Fishel said workers were using to pull fiber optic cable lines, when they accidentally hit the gas line.

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Team Fishel's Statement:

We recognize the seriousness of yesterday’s events. We are truly grateful that no one was seriously injured in yesterday’s incident. We are proud of the way our Teammate’s responded in a swift and safe evacuation.

Following our initial review of the facts, Team Fishel followed all of the Ohio Utility Protection Service (OUPS) requirements. Team Fishel had received the necessary clearances to perform the work in which led to us hitting an unidentified gas line. An investigation is continuing as to why the gas line was unidentified.

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UtiliQuest, LLC Statement:

At UtiliQuest safety is a priority. UtiliQuest is the locate contractor for Columbia Gas of Ohio. Unfortunately, there was a significant event yesterday that resulted in an explosion and a fire. We’re thankful no one was seriously injured and praise the first responders for their quick work to protect the community.

UtiliQuest was responsible for locating the natural gas line, and it appears that a human error occurred. We will continue to work with Columbia Gas of Ohio and first responders in this investigation.

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Columbia Gas of Ohio's response to Team Fishel and UtiliQuest statements:

Our customers have the right to expect safe, reliable natural gas service. We are confident, based on a thorough inspection of our facilities, that our system is safe. We are thankful that no one was seriously injured in yesterday’s unfortunate incident. Columbia Gas of Ohio is proud of the quick response of our employees and grateful for the quick actions of first responders. Our focus continues to be on the safety of the community, our partners and our employees.

As is common practice in the utility industry, Columbia Gas of Ohio relies on third-party companies, like UtiliQuest, to locate our underground gas facilities. The maps and records that we provided to UtiliQuest for this project were accurate. While the investigation is on-going, we understand that a human error occurred, which resulted in yesterday’s incident.

We understand that the community has questions and is looking for answers about yesterday’s incident. We will continue to participate in the on-going investigation. Our crews are working diligently to safely restore service and estimate restoration to customers by 5:00 p.m.

At around 9:45 p.m. Thursday night, Columbia Gas said the gas main has been repaired and services had been restored to customers in the West Broad Street area.