Five workers killed in pipeline explosion

Five construction workers were killed and four others burned when a crew struck an underground fuel pipeline Nov. 9 in Walnut Creek, Calif., a suburb of San Francisco.

The workers were installing a water main for the East Bay Municipal Water District when a backhoe hit the adjacent fuel line, which carries jet fuel from Concord to the San Jose International Airport. The workers welding inside the water main ignited the released fuel, which caused an explosion and a vertical fountain of fire. A nearby house and three apartment buildings sustained major damage. No one inside the buildings was injured.

Mountain Cascade, based in Livermore, Calif., was the contractor working on the water main along with subcontractor Matamoros Welding, of Oakley, Calif.

The bodies of three of the workers were found by a robotic camera, which was sent into the 5-foot-diameter pipe after the fuel line was sealed off. The workers who were killed in the accident were identified as Javier Ramos, 36, Tae Chin Im, 47, Israel Hernandez, 36, Miguel Reyes, 43, and Victor Rodriguez, 26. Matamoros Welding employed three of the workers, while Mountain Cascade employed two.

Kinder Moorage Energy Partners, based in Houston, owns and operates the ruptured pipeline. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is investigating the accident to determine whether the contractor knew about the fuel line. Kinder Morgan said it informed Mountain Cascade about the line and provided the company with maps. Mountain Cascade, however, has stated it was not informed about a deviation in the 10-inch pipeline.