Lawsuit Filed in Gas Line Explosion

A lawsuit has been filed on behalf of a worker whose family says was severely burned in the deadly gas line explosion last week in rural Johnson County.

Corey Gautreaux’s mother said the 22-year-old was recovering from another round of surgery for the third degree burns he received when the crew he was working with struck a natural gas line.

“He watched his good friend and coworker die,” she said.  “He’s still dealing with that, too.”

James Robert Neese, 45, died.  He left behind a wife and seven children.  Gautreaux is one of eight others who were injured. 

The blast occurred west of Cleburne near the intersection of Johnson, Hood and Somervell counties shortly before 3 p.m Monday, June 7. The contractors were digging holes for overhead transmission lines and struck an underground natural gas pipeline, officials said.

A huge fireball shot hundreds of feet into the air, witnesses said.

Enterprise Product Partners of Houston owns the pipeline.  Gautreaux works for Dewey, Okla.-based C&H Power Line Construction Co. who was contracted by Enterprise.

The lawsuit filed Monday is against Enterprise Product Partners and includes claims of negligence and gross negligence.  The suit claims the company failed to properly mark its gas lines and failed to warn workers where the lines were located.

No information was immediately provided on what type of damages are being sought on the lawsuit.

"We've just started our investigation, but I can tell you already that this looks like it was a very preventable catastrophe, Mark Lanier of the Lanier Law Firm said in a written statement.

“What makes it so sad is that several people were seriously hurt and at least one life was lost simply because proper safety procedures weren't followed."

A company spokesperson with Enterprise Products said they do not comment on any pending litigation.

Witnesses reported hearing the blast as far as 20 miles away.

The explosion is under investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board and the Texas Railroad Commission.   Investigators want to know how the pipe was marked and if the construction crews were aware of the gas lines before digging.

An Enterprise Products spokesman said last week its control room was immediately notified of the break. The 36-inch line was equipped with valves that automatically shut down gas to that section of pipe.

The line carries natural gas from West Texas to distributors in East Texas.  Service was disrupted for five days following the blast, Enterprise said. 

The company said Monday it had completed repairs to the pipeline. 

Background information from a report by NBCDFW's Scott Gordon included in this article.

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