New Information in Fatal Gas Explosion in Somerset, Massachusetts
Information uncovered by news teams investigating the fatal gas explosion in Somerset, Massachusetts on February 19, 2009, indicates that damage to a gas main, perhaps from construction activity, may have been a cause of the terrible accident.
Residents in the vicinity of the explosion had reported the smell of gas, and the New England Gas Company was in the area investigating, knocking on doors in the neighborhood. However, within twenty minutes of the arrival of gas company crews, the home of 62-year old Rose Marie Rebello exploded, then erupted in flames. Ms. Rebello and her dog both died, and a firefighter and a utility worker were injured. Homes in the area suffered damage, and hundreds of residents were forced to evacuate. Six homes were rendered uninhabitable, and dozens of others were damaged.
Investigators discovered that a 200-foot long section of the gas main, which was installed over 40 years ago, was “damaged and breached,” possibly by later construction activities. The damage may have been done during the installation of a sewer main and the tie-ins in the neighborhood, though that work was done in the 1970s.
It was the third Massachusetts explosion in three months. One man died in Scituate in December, and another man was seriously injured in January in Gloucester. This is a sharp increase in the accident rate in Massachusetts compared to the previous ten years. Another man was killed in a gas explosion in his home in Manchester, NH, on February 24, 2009. Aging infrastructure and the need for greater maintenance are probably significant factors in gas explosions.
I-Team: Damaged main found at house explosion site, WJAR, March 2, 2009
Before explosion, gas crew waved off help, Boston Globe, February 21, 2009
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