GILBERT, AZ - More than two weeks after a natural gas leak caused a home to explode in a Gilbert neighborhood sending a man to the hospital with serious burns, and forcing a neighborhood to evacuate, the evacuation order has been lifted.
Jason Nelson, 39, was smoking a cigarette while working on his rental home, Feb. 9, when natural gas seeping from an underground pipe ignited and caused an explosion. Nelson has been placed in a medically induced coma and suffered burns to 80 percent of his body, his family said.
He has undergone at least five surgeries since the explosion, and doctors expect him to have at least ten more.
Southwest Gas said all residents along Palomino Drive are allowed to return to their homes Monday. The company said the area is free of natural gas and safe for all residents.
“Although necessary, all of us at Southwest Gas regret the disruption caused by our mitigation work following the Feb. 9 incident. Southwest Gas crews have been on site around the clock to ensure the affected neighborhood meets the stringent safety guidelines Southwest has in place," the company said in a statement.
"Finally, and most important, we will continue to keep Jason Nelson in our thoughts, and we hope for a successful recovery."
Jason's mom, Debbie Nelson, said their son is strong-willed and they are taking a cue from him and doing their best to stay strong and keep in good spirits.
"He's got a sense of humor, he's got his dad's stubbornness, so that'll come in handy." Debbie said.