Investigation into deadly gas explosion complete -, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

Investigation into deadly gas explosion complete

By LeiLani Golden - bio | email

CAIRO, GA (WALB) –State investigators say the city of Cairo is partly to blame for a gas line explosion that killed a city worker.

Georgia Public Service Commission investigators found nine safety violations that contributed to that fatal blast in September.

Utilities worker Wendell Harrison died and three others were severely burned when the pipe they were replacing ignited, causing a massive explosion.

Cairo resident Moday Robinson will forever remember September 28th 2010. That's the day a gas explosion killed one of her friends just outside her front door.

"The fire was so thick. All you could smell was gas," she recalls. "And I saw the crew members running back and forth trying to put him out."

Robinson first believed an accident claimed the life of Wendell Harrison, but now investigators are saying the tragedy may have been preventable.

"There were a number of things the report says the city failed to do including training people appropriately in emergency procedures and suitable materials to make repairs with and following their own operating manuals," explains Bill Edge of the Public Service Commission. "So from a laymen's perspective it appears this could have been prevented."

"He's gone. And he died because of something preventable," says an upset Robinson. "If only they'd been more educated. It wouldn't have happened."

Throughout the investigation, the city of Cairo chose to remain silent on the issue. An act that upset many people living in this neighborhood where the accident occurred.

"That's entirely up to them what kind of response they want to make to the report," Edge says.

Officials say investigators took their time making sure to find every violation so the city of Cairo would know its mistakes and fix them.

"They said they had more corrections to do throughout the city and I would advise them to get all of that done correctly now so people won't live in fear of another gas explosion," explains Robinson. "I just hate that Wendell had to lose his life for something that wasn't his fault. He went in to do a job thinking he'd go home at the end of the day."

Instead, he became a wake up call to the dangers of cutting corners.

Cairo city leaders met with pipeline safety officials yesterday in Atlanta to go over the findings of the investigation.

The investigators will give the public service commission a recommendation on whether to fine the city or proceed with an official hearing to determine the penalties.

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