Valley News -

By Jeff Pack

'Large explosion' levels Murrieta home, one killed, 15 injured


Last updated 7/16/2019 at 11:11am

Shane Gibson photo

Murrieta city councilman and Southern California Gas Company Public Affairs Manager Randon Lane speaks to concerned residents and members of the media following an explosion at a Murrieta home cause by a ruptured gas line on Monday, July 15.

MURRIETA - A Southern California Gas Co. technician was killed and 15 people were injured on Monday, July 15 in a natural gas line explosion that leveled a home in a Murrieta residential neighborhood.

Among the injured in the blast were three Murrieta Fire & Rescue firefighters who were at the scene at the time of the explosion. Officials were unable to provide any updates on the conditions of the injured civilians.

During a 6:30 p.m. press briefing near the area, David Lantzer, Deputy Fre Chief for Murrieta Fire & Rescue gave an update on the incident.

“An active investigation is in process and ongoing,” Lantzer said. “We are also conducting a damage assessment and we are working on a plan to return our residents back to their homes.”

Lantzer then attempted to dispell rumors that another victim may be unaccounted for at the scene.

“There are no unaccounted persons, I repeat, there are no persons who are unaccounted for at this time and we don’t anticipate any,” Lantzer said.

At an earlier 3 p.m. press briefing, Randon Lane, a public affairs officer with Southern California Gas Co., confirmed the news that one employee had been killed in the blast.

“We are incredibly saddened that we had a loss of one of our employees today at this incident,” said Lane, who also serves as a city councilmember for the City of Murrieta.

At the 6:30 p.m. press briefing, SoCalGas Vice President of Construction Cedric Williams, gave an update on the situation and said the family of the technician who died has been notified.

“First of all, our sympathies and thoughts go with the families and individuals and first responders who were impacted by this terrible event,” Williams said. “Based on first reports from the scene, the gas line had been damaged by a contractor working at the home. While on scene an explosion occurred, killing one of our technicians.”

Williams said that a preliminary investigation indicated that the contractor working at the house did not call 811 to have gas lines marked prior to digging on the property as required by law.

“We urge all contractors and homeowners to ensure that 811 is called and utility lines are marked prior to excavation of any sort. 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,'' Williams said.

Earlier at the 3 p.m. press briefing, Lantzer gave a timeline for the series of events that led up to the explosion, and that timeline hadn’t changed by early Monday evening.

He said two Murrieta Fire & Rescue engines and a battalion chief were dispatched to the 23500 block of Wooden Horse Trail near Spicewood Avenue due to a report of a gas line rupture at 10:57 a.m. They discovered the gas leak upon arrival and the second engine was canceled.

Lantzer said SoCalGas employees arrived on the scene at 11:23 a.m. and began to help mitigate the incident.

“At approximately 12:10 an explosion occurred, at which time our engine company requested a full assignment,” he said. “This is an active investigation. All injured parties were transported and are being medically evaluated.”

Shane Gibson photo

Murrieta Fire & Rescue Chaplain Jeremy Stalnecker escorts a family to the scene of an explosion at a home where one Southern California Gas Company worker was killed in Murrieta on Monday, July 15.

One other home was partially damaged on the side facing the burned-out home, but apparently did not catch fire, according to reports from the scene.

A representative from SoCalGas said utility crews stopped the flow of gas to the property about 1 p.m.

Murrieta police closed Clinton Keith Road to all traffic from Smith Ranch Road to Nutmeg Street and said no one would be allowed into the area -- including residents -- for an undetermined period of time for safety reasons.

A care and reception center was opened in the practice gym at Vista Murrieta High School, located at 28251 Clinton Keith Road, Murrieta for those displaced by the incident.

On social media, residents near the area reported a "large boom" and reported feeling their homes shaking following the blast. Photos and video on social media showed the house seemingly fully engulfed in flames.

Kim Harris, Shane Gibson, and City News Service contributed to this report.


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