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Questions Remain Over Gas Line Locations Before Blasts

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(credit: KTVT/KTXA) Jack Fink
Jack moved to Dallas after three years at WESH-TV, the NBC affil...
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GAINESVILLE (CBSDFW.COM) – Before there was a leak, before there was a blast, where were the gas lines?

More North Texas neighborhoods have been jolted by natural gas explosions than normal recently, and the common denominator in those accidents all seemed to be questions the CBS 11 ITeam found while looking into the accidents.

Where were the gas company lines located?

There were also allegations from others the lines were poorly marked to begin with.

In Gainesville, city manager Barry Sullivan says crews experienced that very problem.

Now, all Rick Trammell can do is survey the burned out shell of what used to be his Gainesville home.  “What a loss,” he says as he walks around his former house.

A gas leak caused it to suddenly explode into a fireball three weeks ago. “I don’t know why I always drive by here, because it always hurts me.  But I still yearn to come by here.”

Trammell didn’t live in the home, though. The Martinez family had rented it from him for seven years.

And when trouble was first spotted back on January 24, the family had just 30 minutes to get out. “It’s a blessing they made it out alive,” said Trammell.

CBS 11 is also learning more about what the city thinks went wrong.

The city says before its crews started digging, workers called 811 as required by law, so that a third party company could come out and mark where the gas line is.

But in the city report, workers determined the company had a problem, saying the line locating representative had an electronic locator, but was using a witching rod to locate and mark with, and that he remained on site due to not being sure of his locates.

Sullivan says a photo shows a yellow line where the representative believed the gas line was.  When in reality, the gas line was struck several feet away.

Records with the Texas Railroad Commission show the third party crew hired to locate the gas line was Heath Consultants.  A spokeswoman says the company declined comment.

But Atmos is blaming the city.  The natural gas utility says a city dump truck was working in front of Trammell’s house overnight to fix a water main break.

When a sinkhole opened, the dump truck fell into it, and a large piece of asphalt from the street hit an Atmos Energy gas line resulting in a leak.

Atmos Energy spokeswoman Jennifer Ryan says, “It is Atmos Energy’s understanding that our contractor was in the process of locating the natural gas line when a city dump truck fell through the street at or near where the water leak occurred.”

Atmos Energy is unaware of any evidence indicating that there was any error or mistake made in the line locate process.

The Texas Railroad Commission will have the final say.

When asked who’s to blame, Trammell says, “I think both of them could be blamed.”

Trammell says his family has owned the house for nearly 20 years.  “All the memories I have when I lived here, my mother, my brother, my stepfather.  I’ve lost all that.”

Trammell says he wants to re-build.  He says he doesn’t want to have to file a lawsuit, but says he will if he has to.

MORE: Atmos, Gainesville Pointing Fingers Over Gas Explosion
MORE: Atmos Investigating Gainesville Gas Explosion

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