Gilbert gas explosion update: Families evacuated, man hospitalized after blast

GIILBERT, AZ - Southwest Gas continues to investigate a gas explosion in Gilbert that sent a Valley man to the hospital Sunday night.

Jason Nelson is fighting for his life. According to his family, he will undergo surgery Thursday so doctors can get a sense of how badly he was burned.

Meanwhile, there are still traces of gas, so evacuation orders haven’t been lifted for six remaining homes in the neighborhood.

“We are taking the time to make sure there is absolutely no gas in the area so it will be safe for neighbors,” said Amy Washburn with Southwest Gas.

The Arizona Corporation Commission (ACC) has been out since Sunday night conducting their own investigation into the accident. This is standard anytime there is a leak.

“They will be collecting information on scene, gathering details on the pipe such as maintenance and history. ACC investigators will then make a presentation to the committee and they will determine who, if anyone, is at fault,” said Rebecca Wilder with the ACC.

State and federal laws require gas companies to inspect their pipelines every three years.

Southwest representatives say the pipe involved in Sunday’s explosion was inspected in 2011. That inspection found the pipe was working properly and nothing was wrong. It was scheduled to be re-tested this year.

Southwest investigators are currently testing the pipe to find any abnormalities.

“It’s part of company policy, if we see something looks wrong with the pipe, then we investigate it to make sure it is not causing a leak and endangering the community,” said Washburn.

The ACC revealed a 2008 violation where Southwest Gas failed to report a leak to the commission in the timely fashion. They were fined $85,000.

The company urges anyone who smells gas to call 911 immediately. If homeowners are planning any outdoor projects it is important for them to find out if there are any underground pipes on their property.

Homeowners can do that by calling 811. Blue Stake will come out and mark all the lines on your property for free.

According to Arizona law, before you dig into the ground, you must call and have your utility lines marked.

If you don’t, you could face fines of up to $5,000 dollars per violation.

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