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Contractor Negligence May Have Resulted In Deadly Murrieta Gas Explosion

Screenshot KTLA 5 Los Angeles

UPDATED AT 1pm WEDNESDAY, JULY 16 MURRIETA (CNS) - Firefighters injured in a natural gas explosion that killed a Southern California Gas Co. technician and destroyed a Murrieta home were recovering at home today, while residents in the immediate vicinity of the decimated property remain displaced.
   According to Murrieta Fire & Rescue, the three firemen who suffered minor injuries when the explosion occurred about noon Monday in the 23500 block of Wooden Horse Trail were treated and released from Inland Valley Medical Center in Wildomar.
   SoCalGas representatives said a technician who was hurt in the blast
has also been released from the hospital. There was no word on the status of
the nearly dozen civilians who suffered varying injuries, none life-
   The name of the technician fatally injured while trying to mend the
ruptured gas line has not been disclosed. However, SoCalGas confirmed that he
had worked for the utility about 14 years.
   According to reports from the scene, four properties have been red-
tagged by the fire department due to the considerable damage inflicted by the
explosion. The home at ground zero was leveled.
   An evacuation order remains in place for properties between 23548 and
23582 Wooden Horse Trail, according to Murrieta Fire & Rescue.
   Twenty residents were referred to a care reception center at Vista
Murrieta High School on Clinton Keith Road on Monday, authorities said. It was
unknown how many stayed overnight.
   According to Murrieta Fire & Rescue Deputy Chief David Lantzer, crews
initially responded to the home on Wooden Horse Trail, near Spicewood Avenue,
at 10:57 a.m. Monday because of a breached gas main.
   Officials said a solar contractor, who did not call SoCalGas in
advance to have gas lines marked, split the line while doing installation work.
   A utility crew arrived at 11:23 a.m. to begin repairs, but at 12:10
p.m., an explosion occurred, Lantzer said.
   ``We are incredibly saddened that we have a loss of one of our
employees ... at this incident,'' SoCalGas spokesman Randon Lane said.
   SoCalGas Vice President of Construction Cedric Williams said
confirming where gas lines are present prior to any type of construction work
is required by state law.
   ``We urge all contractors and homeowners to ensure that 811 is called
and utility lines are marked prior to excavation of any sort,'' Williams said.
``No matter what you're doing -- if you're digging, call 811, even if the work
doesn't involve natural gas or natural gas appliances, as was apparently the
case here.''
   According to SoCalGas, utility crews stopped the flow of gas to the
property about 1 p.m.
   Murrieta police closed Clinton Keith Road to all traffic from Nutmeg
Street to Carrington Street. It was re-opened about 8 p.m. Monday.