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2 Killed, 6 Injured in Pipeline Explosion

Times Staff Writer

At least two people were killed, six were injured and as many as four were missing in Walnut Creek on Tuesday after a construction crew hit a pipeline carrying gasoline, sparking an explosion and fire that spread to a nearby home and apartment buildings.

The dead and injured worked for Livermore-based Mountain Cascade or that company’s subcontractors, and were laying and welding 69-inch water pipe for the East Bay Municipal Utility District, said district spokesman Charles Hardy.

The blast occurred at 1:24 p.m. near downtown, and the resulting fire displaced about 275 people. By evening, fire and police officials were still sifting through the damage. It was unclear Tuesday evening how many workers, if any, were still missing in the wreckage.

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The Contra Costa County Fire Protection District reported that six people were injured. Three were in critical condition with burns at Doctors Medical Center in San Pablo, a hospital spokeswoman said. Two were airlifted from John Muir Hospital to UC Davis Medical Center, where a spokesman declined to describe their conditions.

The ruptured pipe is owned and operated by Houston-based Kinder Morgan Energy Partners. It was carrying gasoline from Concord to its San Jose above-ground storage facility, but also carries diesel and jet fuel used by the Mineta San Jose International Airport, said Larry Pierce, a company spokesman. A short-term backup supply is on hand, he said.

Pierce said the line was marked above ground by flags, indicating that contractors may have checked with the state about the location of any underground pipes before digging. The state fire marshal sent two investigators to Walnut Creek to determine the cause of the explosion.

The explosion marks the second Northern California pipeline disaster involving Kinder Morgan this year. In April, a ruptured pipeline owned by the company leaked 85,000 gallons of diesel fuel into the Suisun Marsh -- California’s largest wetland. The leak occurred April 27; the company reported it the next day.

The Environmental Protection Agency recently referred its investigation of the rupture to the Department of Justice for prosecution, because fines could top $150,000 -- the EPA’s threshold.


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