Tulsa worker burned in gas line fire

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Updated: 8/30/2013 10:47 am Published: 8/29/2013 12:04 pm

A gas line ruptured and caught fire, severely burning a City of Tulsa worker with nearly a decade of experience.

A spokesperson for the city said a Utility Service Leader in the Water and Sewer Department was injured while repairing a water line and crews hit an ONG gas line.

On Thursday night, the president for AFSCME local #1180, Michael Rider, released a statement in an email: “The union's investigation is ongoing and preliminary reports indicate that the gas line, which was punctured causing the explosion, had not been marked. A private contractor, not the City of Tulsa, is responsible for marking underground lines.”

The gas line ignited at the Riverchase Apartments in the 7900 block of Riverside Drive around 11:30 a.m. Tulsa Firefighters and its Hazmat team and EMSA responded.

A city supervisor described to FOX23 News the injured worker was bent over in a 7-foot hole and the flames shot up and burned his upper body, hands and head.

Bernadette McQueen was coming back from the store buying food for the homeless when she saw the fire.

"I didn't know if the apartments were on fire or if it was coming from the ground," said Bernadette McQueen.

She and Christina Housholder are neighbors in the complex, and the fire was outside their windows.

"It scared me. It scared them to death. I was like, 'Get up! We have to go!'" said Housholder.

Building number 20 was evacuated by crews who knocked on doors letting families know they needed to leave.

"'You need to get out right now before the building blows up, there is a gas fire,’” said worker to Marion Hamilton.

Her boyfriend woke her up and she grabbed her cellphone and three rescue dogs.

"He yelled at me, 'Get up! We have to get out, we have to get out,’” said Hamilton.

In case the gas fire spread, firefighters soaked Hamilton's apartment building.

City workers told FOX23 News the injured worker was trapped and pulled by his team when the 2-inch gas line ruptured.

"We didn't hear anything," said Housholder.

Gas had affected about nine residents. As of 9:30 p.m. Thursday night, crews were still repairing the gas line. Water was not affected.

Rider said a fund is being set up at Bank of Oklahoma, but more details are being worked out and will be released when finalized.

In the meantime donations can be made at the AFSCME local 1180 office, 1285 S. Detroit Avenue, Monday through Friday 9am-5pm.

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