Dec. 04–CANTON-Ed Glad, Public Information Officer for City of Canton Police Department, said Tuesday morning the National Transportation Safety Board released the results of their nearly two-year investigation into the gas explosion that occurred Nov. 16, 2016, killing one man while injuring 11 others, destroying the Opera House Professional Building Annex and resulting in the eventual demolition of the Opera House Professional Center.
Above and beyond anything contained in the report, Mayor Kent McDowell, who was elected the following April, said remembering the loss of life that occurred that evening is what is most important, “I want to preface this by saying regardless of what’s in the report, the loss of Mr. Silva’s life and injuries received by others will always remain paramount regardless of property and economic loss.”
Released Monday night, the NTSB accident brief says in part, prior to the incident, Sure Shot Communications LLC, a contractor for Mid Century Communications (Mid Century), a telephone and fiber optic cooperative, was performing directional drilling adjacent to the building to install conduit for fiber optic cable.
About 9 a.m. the Sure Shot crew began utilizing multiple drills at various locations on the block.
Just prior to 4 p.m., the contractor reported to the Joint Utility Locating Information for Excavators (JULIE), a marked gas line had been damaged. The damage occurred while crews were pulling the drill rod back to the drilling rig after a directional drilling operation under the sidewalk along North First Street.
After being notified, Ameren Illinois, received a damage report from Sure Shot and dispatched field technicians to evaluate the situation. Less than 10 minutes later the first Ameren responder arrived at the scene; three other Ameren technicians arrived shortly thereafter. The lead Ameren responder contacted his supervisor to confirm the pipeline had been struck and to request excavation equipment to uncover the service line. A backhoe excavator arrived at 4:41 p.m. and Ameren technicians began to isolate the leak.
Just prior to ten minutes to five, nearby customers called the Ameren Customer Contact Center to report natural gas odors both indoors and outdoors. According to Ameren, these customers were given safety instructions and told to leave their buildings if an odor was detected. By 5:37 p.m., Ameren technicians shut off the natural gas flow to the service line by squeezing off the pipeline.
At 5:44 p.m., the Opera House Annex behind the Opera House Professional Center exploded, killing, Arturo Silva, Jr., 38, and injuring 11 who were impacted by debris from the blast.
Glad said, “Silva, Jr., was killed that evening while working along with his fellow Ameren technicians to repair a damaged gas line when the Annex building exploded. At the time of the explosion the building’s 19,500 square feet were fully occupied by 10 to 12 commercial tenants.”
The NTSB found, over the course of their investigation, Ameren employees responding to the report of damage were on scene for about an hour-and-a-half prior to the explosion. The employees recorded gas readings from the outside perimeter of the Opera House Professional Center building; however they did not take any readings from inside the building despite Ameren having received both indoor and outdoor odor complaints.”
An Ameren utility crew excavated and visually examined the damaged service line at the accident scene. The top of the 1-inch polyethylene line showed clear damage as a result of being struck by drilling equipment.
As a result, The NTSB found the following, “The National Transportation Safety Board determines that the probable cause of the natural gas release and subsequent explosion was third party damage from Sure Shot’s directional drilling to install underground fiber optic conduit. Contributing to the pipeline damage was Sure Shot’s decision not to excavate at the utility crossing to visually inspect the work, while in progress, until clear of the underground utilities, as required by Illinois law. Contributing to the severity of the accident of the failure of Sure Shot and Ameren to evacuate the area.”
What does the report mean for Canton?
Said McDowell, “Nothing has changed for us. We’re continuing to fill gaps and because of a generous donation from Kert Huber (Opera House Professional Center property owner) we will have more control over what fills the space.”
For additional details, visit https://www.ntsb.gov/investigations/SitePages/dms.aspx and search for NTSB accident ID DCA17FP003.
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