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Atmos, Gainesville Pointing Fingers Over Gas Explosion

(credit: KTVT/KTXA) Jack Fink
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GAINESVILLE (CBSDFW.COM) – For the first time, Jose Martinez and his family are speaking about the gas explosion that destroyed their Gainesville home at 7:00 a.m. January 24.

Martinez says “You look back and you’re like, I lived there two weeks ago.”

All that’s left of their home on West Tennie Street is a shell of charred bricks.

Only 30 minutes before the blast that shook the neighborhood, Atmos crews knocked on their front door and told them to get out.

Martinez says, “You don’t know what to think.”

So they walked out quickly.

While they were in front of their house, the house exploded, and they watched everything they owned burst into flames.

Martinez says, “My dad was right next to me and he started shaking too. You can hear my mom behind crying, hugging my little brother, it was just horrible.”

His father Martin Martinez says “I don’t believe it. I feel a big hole under my feet, something like this. A lot of emotion.”

A new report by the city of Gainesville sheds some light on what happened.

According to the report, city crews were trying to fix a water main break outside of the house overnight.

During the work, a dump truck fell into the street, hitting a gas line.

City manager Barry Sullivan says, “The water line that had busted created a cavern underneath the street and the weight of the dump truck fell through the street and the truck along with the debris fell on that service line and pulled it out of the main.”

Atmos Energy pointed the facts out in its report to the Texas Railroad Commission which investigates gas explosions.

But in it’s report to the Railroad Commission, and in its internal investigation, the city claims the gas line wasn’t marked properly.

The city manager says a third party crew marked the line in yellow where they believed the gas line was.

But Sullivan says the line was hit away from that yellow line.

Sullivan says, “We set them up in an appropriate location for where utlities had been identified. If they would have been identified in a different situation we would have addressed that situation and located our equipment to deal with those issues.”

An Atmos Energy spokeswoman declined comment, saying its report speaks for itself.

Since the explosion, the community has come together and given donations to help the Martinez family.

Thirstystone, a Gainesville business where Martin and Alma Martinez have worked for ten years, have coordinated assistance provided to the family.

Jose Martinez says Atmos has also made a donation to help.

For all they’ve received, Martinez says they are forever grateful.
“There’s not actually words to describe how thankful I am for everything everyone has done for us. Makes you realize how important family is.”

The family rented the home, and have now moved into another house.

The homeowner says he’s devastated as well, but relieved that the Martinez family got out of the house in time.

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