La. Interstate Shut Down Due To Pipeline Fire, Ala. Man Killed

December 17, 2007

Interstate 20, a major east-west route across north Louisiana was shut down much of the day on Dec. 14 after a natural gas pipeline erupted in flames, killing at least one person.

“We’re not sure if it was the explosion itself or debris from it that killed him,” said Sgt. Julie Lewis, a spokeswoman for the Louisiana State Police.

She said Corbin Fawcett, 47, of Haleyville, Ala., was killed and George McCaleb, 58, of Fayetteville, Ala. – a passenger in Fawcett’s pickup truck – was taken to the hospital with minor injuries.

Lewis was not sure how McCaleb got away from the wreck.

The pipeline caught fire about 1 p.m. just east of Delhi, La., a small town about 200 miles northwest of New Orleans. The dispatcher for the Richland Parish Sheriff’s Department, who would not give his name, said the oil line was about 50 yards from the interstate. A four-mile stretch from Delhi to the Waverly exit was closed both ways for nearly six hours.

Columbia Gulf Transmissions, which owned the line, got the fire out about 3 p.m.

“They were able to cut off the natural gas flow,” she said. “The pipeline company is testing adjacent pipelines in the area. Once that’s completed and the hazardous material people clear it, DODT will make an assessment to make sure the roadway is safe.”

Westbound traffic was allowed back on the highway about 6:45 p.m., and eastbound lanes shortly before 10 p.m., Lewis said.

It was the second time in a month that a pipeline or oil fire had shut down an interstate in Louisiana.

An oil well blowout closed a 55-mile stretch of Interstate 10 between Baton Rouge and Lafayette from Nov. 15-25.

The earlier accident prompted the Louisiana Office of Conservation to call a 120-day moratorium on drilling oil and gas wells within a quarter-mile of an interstate highway. Gov. Kathleen Blanco had urged a review of policies after the blowout.

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