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Mystery Gas Causes Fatal Explosion

Posted by te2ataria on June 4, 2011

UNIDENTIFIED gas explosion in Auckland suburb kills at least one, injures 6

First version of this story posted on June 4, 2011, at 2:33 pm

48-year-old woman killed in tunnel explosion

The explosion which killed at one man and injured six others in a tunnel in the Auckland suburb of Onehunga today was caused by an unidentified gas, emergency services say. Mystery

The explosion happened 4m into a tunnel where a new watermain was being connected in Onehunga’s Mt Smart Road, said Superintendent George Fraser, the police officer in charge of the rescue and recovery mission.

The workers had just entered the tunnel and were only a few metres into it when the blast happened, blowing two men out of the tunnel and injuring five. One of the men died.

“There are a total of seven workers that were involved. Six of those workers have been taken to hospital. We have one confirmed fatality,” an emotional Mr Fraser said.

One of the injured men was critical, one was serious and the other four were being assessed. One man was believed to have lost limbs.

Auckland fire acting area commander Steve Lakin said seven specialist appliances were sent to the area.

“When the Fire Service arrived at the scene it was a rescue operation. They rescued six people from the vicinity of what is an underground pipe.

“After we made the scene safe and realising it had been a fatal accident, the Fire Service, along with the other emergency services, made an effort to enter the tunnel to determine the state of play.

“We entered the tunnel with gas detection equipment and found that there were explosive limits of gases inside the tunnel.

“At this stage we are unaware of what those gases are likely to be, other than the explosive limits are beyond our normal safe procedures.”

They were working to make sure the area was safe and the gas was reduced inside the tunnel so they could go back inside for another inspection, Mr Lakin said. Gas detection equipment was on the site.

“We can’t determine what that gas is because we can’t get to where we need to be.

“All we can do at the moment is go through a process of elimination to make sure that the services in and around the area, such as electricity and gas, have been isolated and we are then working with the technicians on site from the relevant companies to determine what the gases are,” he said.

“The gas levels are low and are non-toxic but they have levels of flammability.

The 1.5km pipe was about 3m underground and was 2.5m in diameter, allowing people to walk into it before the diameter reduced. Emergency personnel got as far as they could into the pipe during the rescue mission, Mr Lakin said.

They planned to flood the pipe with material to reduce the risk of another explosion but first needed to establish what the gas was.

“Our first priority was to make sure nobody was in that tunnel. The second priority was to establish what the gas is and the next priority then will be to make this area safe,” Mr Lakin said.

No details of the dead man or injured workers were available.


Take 2, posted 4 hours later at 6:39 pm


Unidentified gas caused fatal explosion: firefighters

48-year-old Auckland woman was killed this morning when an explosion occurred in a tunnel in the Auckland suburb of Onehunga, police confirmed.

Contractors were working to join two large water mains this morning when the explosion occurred, killing one and injuring six others.

“The cause of the explosion is still unclear and gas levels remain high, restricting access to the area,” Superintendent George Fraser said.

“Emergency services remain at the scene and air is being pumped into the space in an effort to make it safe so that a thorough scene examination can be carried out and to enable the maintenance work to continue as scheduled,” he said.

“We will be working through the night to try and ascertain how exactly this tragedy occurred.”


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