Injured worker sues after Johnson County pipeline blast

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by BRETT SHIPP

WFAA

Posted on June 15, 2010 at 8:54 PM

Updated Wednesday, Jun 16 at 12:22 AM

NEWS 8 INVESTIGATES

One of the workers injured in last week's natural gas explosion in Johnson County is suing Enterprise Products, the Houston company that owns the pipeline.

One person died, and seven others were injured when a drilling auger punctured a large gas transmission line, resulting in a huge explosion.

Nearly engulfed in flames and horribly burned, Corey Gautreaux was one of the lucky ones.

He was 100 yards away when he witnessed the 36-inch gas line being punctured by colleague James Neese.

Attorney Judd Waltman with the Lanier Law Firm in Houston spoke on behalf of his client. "Corey says he saw the event and heard what he describes as a loud 'thump' and saw debris and dirt flying out of the hole," Waltman said.  "Immediately after that, the line ignited into a giant fireball coming toward him. He turned at that point to run as fast as he could for his life."

Gautreaux filed the first of potentially several lawsuits claiming that C&H Power Line, the Oklahoma electrical sub-contractor drilling the hole, followed proper protocols by requesting a line location.

But according to the lawsuit, the pipeline company, Enterprise Product Partners, did not properly mark the massive line. Enterprise officials have not responded to News 8's request for comment.

"We believe there may have been more than one line out there, and unfortunately, the line they dug into was one that was not marked," Waltman said, adding that Gautreaux remains hospitalized, suffering from severe burns on his neck, arms and back.

Apart from recovery, Waltman said all the injured workers want answers and assurances that this kind of accident can never happen again.

"This just heightens the burden on these gas companies and owner and operators of these lines to make certain they know where they are," Waltman said.

E-mail bshipp@wfaa.com

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