CHANDLER, Ariz. - Officials with Southwest Gas have released some findings from an initial investigation surrounding an explosion in Chandler late last month.
Explosion left four people badly hurt
The explosion happened at a print shop near Ray and Rural Roads at around 9:30 a.m. on Aug. 26, and rocked nearby homes. The victims were identified as Andrew and Dillon Ryan, brothers who own the print shop, along with Parker Milldebrandt. In addition, an employee at a nearby eyeglass repair shop was also injured.
"It’s amazing to me anyone walked out of that alive," said Dr. Kevin Foster, director of the Arizona Burn Center at Valleywise Health. "Yeah, it’s really baffling that this explosion of this magnitude and injuries were not worse than they are."
Authorities have said they have found no signs of foul play at the scene.
"The findings by the ATF National Response Team and investigative partners determined that the explosion was caused by an unintentional natural gas leak ignited by an independent ignition source," an ATF spokesman said.
Natural gas pipe suffered ‘premature degradation’
In a statement obtained by FOX 10, officials with Southwest Gas say the cause of the leak and subsequent explosion was premature degradation of a certain type of natural gas pipe that was installed at the location in 1999.
The type of pipe in question, according to Southwest Gas officials, was identified as Driscopipe 8000, which was purchased by the utility firm between approximately the years 1980 to 1999.
The gas in the line, according to officials, was odorized to levels required by state and federal regulations.
"No odor complaints were received from the print shop or the shopping complex which it was located in within the last 12 months," read a portion of the statement.
Gas pipe type had ‘low risk of degradation’
Southwest Gas officials say they have previously determined that the type of pipe in question has a low risk of degradation.
"When it occurs, it causes the pipe to be susceptible to leaks under specific conditions, namely when certain sizes of the pipe are exposed to prolonged periods of no-flow conditions, and are exposed to prolonged elevated temperatures like those encountered in Maricopa County," read a portion of the statement.
Officials say they have implemented a multi-year remediation effort to replace or abandon any pipe sections that were at risk, but an error in construction records misidentified the gas pipe type that was used near the building where the explosion happened. This resulted in the pipe being exempt from Southwest Gas' remediation efforts.
"Southwest Gas is in the process of investigating how that error occurred," read a portion of the statement.
Officials with the utility company say an investigation is ongoing.
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