Explosion Rocks Oklahoma Town, Injures 2, Destroys Homes

November 17, 2008

Mildred Hull and her husband, Stanley, were in their mobile home near Oklahoma 19 when a 20-inch natural gas pipeline exploded about 3 a.m. Nov. 14, destroying the couple’s home and two others, authorities said.

Mildred Hull had burns on more than 15 percent of her body and was listed in good condition at Integris Baptist Medical Center’s burn unit, a hospital spokeswoman said. The extent of Stanley Hull’s injuries weren’t known.

Alex, Okla., resident Kent McLemore drove to the blast site after being awakened by a friend and seeing what he called “a ball of fire.” When he drove up, he saw a woman sitting with her burned legs stretched out in front of her.

“She was sitting up, but she was in a lot of pain, too,” he said of Mildred Hull.

When night turned to day at 3 a.m., Larry Abel figured it couldn’t be good.

Abel lives about three miles from where a 20-inch natural gas pipeline exploded.

A woman and her son were in the other mobile home across the road from the Hulls and weren’t injured in the blast, fire officials said. A rock house wasn’t occupied.

Grady County Fire Chief Perry Wenzel, who lives 20 miles from the explosion site, said he could see flames from his house.

“They (the victims) are very lucky to be alive,” Wenzel said.

Officials from Enogex, the company that operates the line, and Oklahoma Corporation Commission inspectors are investigating to determine what caused the line to break.

The pipeline, built in 1975, transports natural gas from wells northwest of Thomas in Custer County to a production plant near Cox City in Grady County.

Enogex spokesman Gil Broyles said a section of pipe about 16 to 18 feet long blew, creating a crater 30 to 40 feet wide.

The company sent workers to close valves on either end of the rupture area after a computer monitoring system noted a drop in pressure, Broyles said. The company has removed the damaged section of pipe for testing.

He said no problems were found when it was inspected last year and when a routine maintenance was performed within the past week.

Enogex officials have offered temporary housing and transportation for the families. The community is accepting donations to help them as well.

People can bring donations of clothing and household items to the school in Alex, 209 S. Second St.

Information from: The Oklahoman, www.newsok.com

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