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SoCalGas Technician Killed, 15 Injured In Natural Gas Explosion At Murrieta Home

MURRIETA (CBSLA) – A damaged gas line sparked an explosion that leveled a home in a Murrieta neighborhood Monday afternoon, leaving one person dead and 15 others injured and damaging several other nearby homes.

Explosion, House Fire Reported In Murrieta Neighborhood
A fire burns at a home in Murrieta, Calif., that may have been caused by an explosion. July 15, 2019. (CBS2)

The explosion occurred at 12:10 p.m. in the 23500 block of Wooden Horse Trail, after Southern California Gas Co. crews had initially responded to a ruptured gas line, Murrieta Fire & Rescue Deputy Chief David Lantzer told reporters at a news conference.

A contractor who had failed to call 811 to check for gas lines prior to digging on the property ruptured the line, SoCalGas officials said. SoCalGas crews were called out about 50 minutes prior to the explosion, at 11:23 a.m., to begin repair work on the line, Lantzer said.

The explosion started a fire that burned the home to the ground, blew the windows out of nearby cars and homes and sent shards of glass and chunks of brick across the street.

SoCalGas officials confirmed that one of the company's workers was killed in the blast, later identified as 31-year-old Wade Kilpatrick.

"We are incredibly saddened that we have a loss of one of our employees today at this incident," SoCalGas spokesman Randon Lane said at an afternoon noon conference. "We are not releasing any information at this time as the investigation unfolds and the family has yet to be informed."

Kilpatrick had been with the company for 11 years and is survived by his mother and seven siblings.

Crews were able to shut off the gas by 1 p.m.

A fire burns at a home in Murrieta. July 15, 2019. (Joanna Rose/Twitter)

Of the 15 people hurt, two were SoCalGas employees and three were fighters. The injured SoCalGas employees and firefighters were treated and released from the hospital. The conditions of the other 10 patients were not disclosed.

In addition to the home that was destroyed, four other homes have been red-tagged and at least one more was yellow-tagged. Another dozen homes appeared to have sustained some kind of damage.

"No matter what you're doing, if you're digging, please call 811," said Cedrick Williams, SoCalGas construction vice president. "Even if the work doesn't involve natural gas or natural gas appliances, as apparently was the case here."

According to a neighbor, the family bought the home two months ago and were in the process of renovating it. All members of the family were accounted for following the blast. According to the mother of the woman who lived in the home, she was standing inside when the gas line exploded. Two neighbors told CBS2 that a woman who lives there with her children had evacuated after the gas line rupture, but that was not confirmed by authorities.

Clinton Keith Road remained closed to all traffic from Nutmeg Street to Carrington Street. Residents who were unable to return to their homes were sent to a
care center at the Vista Murrieta High School gym at 28251 Clinton Keith Rd. Fire crews continued work on the home into the night.

Lantzer said that an active investigation was underway into the cause of the explosion.

SoCalGas reported that the family of the deceased technician had been notified and that they were working closely with first responders and other agencies to support their investigation.

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