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June 10th, 2010

Cleburne Texas Gas Line Explosion – Gas Line Not Marked?

Investigation into the gas line explosion in Cleburne, Texas that left a man dead are focusing on whether the line was properly marked before utility work began at the job site.  An Oklahoma worker died Monday, and another worker remains hospitalized with burns after a natural gas pipeline exploded into a fireball.  Now that the facts are coming out, we know that Oklahoma-based C&H Power Line Construction was digging holes to erect an electrical transmission tower when their work crew struck a gas line that was part of a larger network of gas lines crisscrossing the immense Barnett Shale natural gas field.

The electrical contractor that clipped the underground line Monday afternoon causing the explosion appears to have followed requirements to locate gas lines in the area.  It seems to be the case in Texas right now that these workers can do what they are required to do and still risk striking lines for a variety of reasons including: (1) the owner and/or operator fails to mark its line in an appropriate way; (2) the “One Call” system that is set in place does not reach the correct party to ensure that the lines in the area are all marked; and (3) the companies who are in charge of the actual project fail to develop their plans safely and/or supervise all of the contractors working on their project.

While the Johnson County blast was initially thought to have caused multiple fatalities, it is now known that James Robert Neese, 45, of Ramona, Oklahoma is the only man who has passed away.  Mr. Neese was operating drilling equipment that struck the line about 15 miles west of Cleburne, Texas.  Neese is the only missing member of the 14-person crew that was working on the job site at the time of the blast.  His family said he was the father of seven children, one of whom was born only three weeks ago. His wife Lavonne Neese released a written statement Tuesday evening relaying this information.

Eight other crew members working for C&H Power Line Construction suffered burns and at least one worker remains hospitalized.

The case will involve Oklahoma-based C&H Power Line Construction , Houston-based Enterprise Product Partners , which partially owns and operates the line, and the many agencies involved in line locating, line marking, and gas line safety.

The Texas gas line explosion lawyers of Schechter, Shaffer & Harris, L.L.P., Accident & Injury Lawyers have heard this story before.  Right now, two of our lawyers are handling an almost identical case where a gas line explosion caused severe injuries, burns and deaths.  In our case, the accident occurred due to a line-marking failure leading to a line strike.  In our current case, as well as the current situation in Cleburne, the agencies and entities responsible all wind up pointing the finger at each other instead of making the appropriate changes to ensure the safety of the workers who are out in the field literally putting their lives on the line each day.

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