By Jamie Leary

GYPSUM, Colo. (CBS4)- A fatal home explosion in Gypsum, caused by a natural gas line that was ruptured during a drilling operation for a fiber optics project, was not the first time the Comcast contractor hit a line. While investigators initially believed a line was struck days before the Sept. 17 explosion, Black Hills Energy said this turned out to be incorrect.

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CBS4 confirmed a line was struck during the same fiber optics operation during the summer.

A family in the adjacent neighborhood said they were evacuated from their home in July, when the contracting company, SNEFCO, hit a gas line.

“The fire department arrived, and the guy came to the door and said you need to leave, you need to evacuate and do it now,” said Eric Johnson.

Eric and Mindy Johnson live in the neighborhood surrounding the Gypsum Creek Golf Course and said they could smell natural gas.

“You know the guy that hit the line said he had never hit a line before, but the bottom line is, within in a seven, eight-week window here, we’ve had two lines hit and an explosion, and a house blown up and destroyed, and a life lost,” said Eric.

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While the neighborhoods where the lines were hit are separate, the boring operation was for the same fiber optics project.

“You know, fiber optic for the town could add some value to our city and our properties and so forth, but at what expense?” asked Eric.

The Johnson’s home was the only one evacuated during the July incident and on Thursday, SNEFCO released a statement confirming what took place.

A gas line ruptured on July 17, 2020 in the vicinity of S. Legend Drive because drilling operations caused an adjacent subsurface rock to shift in such a way that it damaged a poly gas line.  911 was immediately called, the fire department promptly responded and the gas line was fully repaired within three (3) hours. The S. Legend Drive incident is entirely unrelated to the more recent Springfield Street incident.

Initially, the Johnsons were upset about the damage done to their driveway. As of Thursday, it still needed repairs.

“You see these cracks here in the driveway because there’s not any support here,” Eric said as he pointed to the area the company had to dig into to repair the damaged line.

But the Johnsons say after Sept. 17, the driveway isn’t their biggest concern. Mindy saw the aftermath of the home explosion from her driveway.

“I saw the smoke plume shortly after it happened… my first reaction was just to begin praying,” said Mindy.

RELATED: Coroner: Patricia Roe Killed In Home Explosion In Gypsum

She had no idea at the time a life had been lost, but when the couple heard what happened and discovered it was due to a ruptured gas line, they were in shock.

“We both kind of just looked at each other and said, ‘You know by God’s grace, here we sit this evening.’ You know, six, seven, eight weeks ago we had the same exact leak, it could’ve had the same exact end result,” said Eric.

He isn’t sure how the company hit the gas line.

(credit: CBS)

CBS4 contacted Black Hills Energy to ask if the lines were properly marked before SNEFCO began digging, but due to the ongoing investigation, it couldn’t comment.

Black Hills Energy released the statement below on Sept. 22, but said beyond that, it could not comment.

The safety of our community, customers and employees is our first priority. Black Hills Energy technicians continue to respond to the natural gas incident that occurred on Thursday, September 17 in the Chatfield Corners neighborhood in Gypsum. Technicians have safely restored service to majority of customers whose gas service was temporarily suspended and will be restoring service for remaining customers at their convenience.

We appreciate the public and the media’s patience in waiting for additional information while the incident investigation is being conducted. Although the investigation is not complete, based upon information released to local media, the following is additional information in response to questions that have been raised since the incident.

“We’re saddened to learn that a Gypsum resident died during the incident,” stated Vance Crocker, vice president of Colorado operations for Black Hills Energy. “Our hearts and prayers are with the family and loved ones of the individual who lost their life and with all families and loved ones who are involved and who are affected. We’re working with all appropriate agencies to determine the cause of this tragedy.”

 

Jamie Leary

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