Randy McIlwain, NBC 5 News
Utility officials say four people hurt in a natural gas pipeline explosion north of Dallas all have minor injuries. A crew was working in McKinney when a piece of equipment ruptured the line, sending up flames and thick black smoke.
A ruptured gas line that caught fire and sent flames 50-feet into the air Tuesday morning in McKinney has been snuffed out, but not before injuring two people and damaging several vehicles.
The gas line explosion was first reported at about 8:45 a.m. at a digging site near state highways 121 and 5 east of US 75 in Collin County. While flying to the scene, Chopper 5 videographer Ames Meyer said the flames were visible from about 15 miles away.
According to the McKinney Fire Department, a 6-person Atmos Energy crew was working in the area when they ruptured a 6-inch gas line with a backhoe.
Nearby witnesses described hearing the gas and the explosion that followed afterward.
"There was a big hiss and we were running around trying to figure out what the hiss was and it was only about maybe 10 or 15 seconds and then, 'Kaboom,' we saw it across the street," said Chris Bean, who works at the nearby Golf Club at McKinney. "My first reaction was,'Thank God I don't have to fix that. ' Then the reality hit ... you could see the flames and there was no black smoke, just this huge ball of fire. I saw one of the crew members run across the street and he was pretty shaken up ... they just started running."
There have been conflicting reports about the number and severity of those injured, but Atmos officials now say only two people were treated for injuries, one for anxiety.
"We are very lucky. They [the crew] were all immediately accounted for. This is in the McKinney city limits but it is in a fairly remote area so there were no homes impacted," said Stacie Durham, McKinney Fire Department.
Several vehicles, including digging equipment, were destroyed by the fire.
The fire caused a power outage in the area and the nearby Medical Center of McKinney operated on generator power for a short time until power was restored to the hospital. The hospital is located about a block to the southwest of the fire.
At about 9:45 a.m., the supply to the gas line was shut down and the fire slowly went out as the residual gas burned off.
Tuesday afternoon, Atmos crews were going door to door to restore natural gas service to approximately 650 customers affected by the explosion.
“We apologize to our customers for this inconvenience and we want to assure them we are working hard to restore service,” said Jennifer Ryan, Atmos Energy spokesperson. “All customers who return home tonight and do not have natural gas service need to call the Atmos Energy Customer Service Center at 1-888-286-6700.”
NBC 5's Randy McIlwain and Kendra Lyn contributed to this report.