NTSB: Out-Of-Service Gas Line Had Been Cut at Explosion Site

BOARDMAN, Ohio – An underground gas line that wasn’t in service but was pressurized with natural gas had been cut at the site of the Tuesday explosion at the Realty Building in downtown Youngstown, according to a National Transportation Safety Board member.

“Preliminary information suggests that work crews were present in the basement of the building for purposes of clearing out old utility infrastructure,” said Tom Chapman, NTSB board member. “A possible third-party cut to the pressurized service line is a central focus of our investigation to determine the cause of the gas release and subsequent explosion.”

The NTSB briefed the news media Thursday afternoon at the Holiday Inn in Boardman. The explosion killed one man, an employee of the Chase Bank branch on the first floor, and injured several others. It also displaced the building’s residents.

“With regard to this tragedy, we are particularly interested in issues related to gas line failure and system integrity management, third-party work in the vicinity of gas lines and emergency response,” Chapman said.

NTSB has a long-standing concern about third-party work in the vicinity of gas lines. The agency is also concerned about system integrity, he said.

Chapman called the damage to the building “stunning” and devastating.

It’s difficult to get perspective from photos and video, but when you get up close and see how deep it goes into the basement and the size of the damaged structures, “it gets your attention,” he said.

The NTSB team is expected to be in town investigating for about a week. A preliminary report will be issued in about 30 days, with a final report not expected for 12 to 24 months, Chapman said. The NTSB’s role is to determine what happened, he said.

“We’re not looking to determine negligence,” he said. “We’re not looking to determine fault. We’re just looking to determine what the facts are.”

Pictured at top: Kim West, pipeline investigator-in-charge with the Office of Railroad, Pipeline and Hazardous Material Investigations at the NTSB, and Tom Chapman, NTSB board member.

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.