Kentucky

Woman burned in Ky. pipeline blast tried to report concerns about potential problem.

A woman burned in the explosion of a large gas pipeline in Lincoln County said she tried to report concerns about the line in the days before the blast.

Jodie Coulter’s mobile home in Lincoln County, between Moreland and Junction City, was near three 30-inch gas transmission lines that run through the region.

Coulter said she isn’t sure she found the right company to tell about her concern about a potential leak, which had spooked her enough to want to move.

“I kept an overwhelming feeling inside of me that something was going to happen,” she said.

She and her husband, Denver, were looking for another home before the blast.

One of the three lines blew out about 1:20 a.m. Thursday killing a neighbor of Coulter’s, 58-year-old Lisa D. Derringer, and injuring several other people, including a Lincoln County sheriff’s deputy that police said drove into the neighborhood and helped an elderly couple get out.

Derringer had been a truck driver and still drove at times, Coulter said, describing Derringer as a hard worker who took in people at times when they had nowhere else to stay.

“She was just a kind-hearted person,” Coulter said.

The explosion and roaring fire destroyed five of about 20 homes in the neighborhood and damaged nine others, according to the Lincoln County emergency management office.

One man remained hospitalized Friday, officials said.

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Burnt vehicles and destroyed buildings remained after a gas pipeline explosion just outside of Juction City Thursday. Alex Slitz aslitz@herald-leader.com

A team from the National Transportation Safety Board arrived Thursday to begin an investigation and continued working at the charred scene Friday.

The investigation will cover a range of issues, including inspections and maintenance of the line by the owner, Enbridge, and the structural integrity of the pipe, Mike Hiller, who is leading the team, said at a briefing Friday.

One question investigators will work to answer is whether there was corrosion in the line played a role in the rupture.

The NTSB has cited corrosion as a contributor to previous pipeline blasts in Kentucky, including one in Metcalfe County in 1985 that killed five people and another in Garrard County in 1986 in which six people were injured.

Texas Eastern operated those lines. Enbridge later bought the company.

Coulter, whose mobile home was about 200 feet from the where the pipeline ruptured, said she felt the ground in the neighborhood shake twice, most recently about 10 days ago.

The episodes were brief, but the shaking was strong enough to knock pictures off the walls, she said.

There are railroad tracks at the back of the neighborhood, but Coulter said she has lived near the railroad most of her life and is sure a train wasn’t the cause of the shaking.

It also gave her cause for concern that her dog, a Rhodesian Ridgeback named Jordan, kept sniffing around the area of the pipe. It was unusual for him to do that, Coulter said.

“I think that maybe there was something going on underground,” she said.

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Jodie Coulter, of Moreland, was overcome with emotion near the site of her home that was destroyed in a gas line explosion Thursday, Aug. 1, 2019. She was burned escaping the blast and fire. Coulter also lost her belongings. Alex Slitz aslitz@herald-leader.com

Coulter looked at signs that mark the route of the three lines, but couldn’t find a number to report potential problems.

She searched on Google for a number for the pipeline company. She called a company, but couldn’t recall the name Friday, and said she’s not sure she reached Enbridge.

Whoever she reached seemed dismissive, Coulter said.

She also called police to report her concerns.

But she also found that number on the internet and thinks it may have been for the Danville Police Department, which wouldn’t have had jurisdiction because the line was in Lincoln County.

Coulter said someone recently put stakes in the ground at the spot where she thinks the breach occurred, but she didn’t know if any work was done at the site.

A spokesman for Enbridge said Friday the company would not comment on matters related to the explosion.

Hiller said the NTSB was not aware of any recent reports to the company about potential leaks.

However, he said investigators plan to canvass the neighborhood and talk to residents.

Coulter said she’d never thought much about living near the large interstate gas transmission lines before.

After the shaking incidents, however, she told her husband she didn’t feel safe and wanted to move out as quickly as possible, but they hadn’t found another place to rent before the explosion.

Coulter said her dog woke her up when the pipeline blew up. She described the scene outside as a “tornado of fire.”

The windows of their home were rattling violently; the inside of the structure was starting to smolder and vinyl and plastic items were melting. Her purse was six steps away, but she left without it.

“I knew we didn’t have six steps,” Coulter said.

Coulter said she felt the presence of God telling her to get out. It felt like a blowtorch outside and she believes she wouldn’t have made it out alive without divine help.

“I felt like I was being pushed along” as she and her husband and dog ran, Coulter said.

She was burned on her arms as they fled and she and her husband lost their home and all their belongings, including the tools he had in a van for his job doing heating and air-conditioning work.

Thursday night was painful “physically and mentally,” she said, but she was thankful Friday.

“I’m blessed and glad to be alive,” she said.

Hiller, the NTSB investigator, said the pipe that ruptured was installed in 1957. It runs from Ohio to Mississippi, carrying more than 1.8 million cubic feet of natural gas a day, he said.

Various sources could have ignited the gas rushing out of the pipe, Hiller said.

The blast blew a section of pipe 30 feet long out of the ground.

The investigation will likely include taking a section of the pipe to Washington, D.C., for a detailed metallurgical inspection, Hiller said.

Hiller said the NTSB is interested in seeing any video of the explosion. People can send video to witness@ntsb.gov, he said.

The agency will check the soundness of the other two pipelines.

It could take 12 to 18 months for the NTSB to issue a report on the probable cause of the pipeline break and fire.

Mike Hiller
Mike Hiller, an investigator with the National Transportation Safety Board, spoke on Aug. 2, 2019 about a gas pipeline explosion in Lincoln County in which one woman died. Robin Hart Photo courtesy of The Advocate-Messenger
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