Between 2 and 3 pm on Monday, October 31st, a gas pipeline in Helena, AL exploded. The explosion sent a stream of
ignited gasoline into the air, forming a column of flame between 100 and
300 feet tall, according to the fire chiefs on the scene. Reports vary,
but the column of fire was confirmed.
The scene was chaotic enough that firefighters and emergency responders
had a hard time determining if all workers were accounted for. It took
two hours of searching and corroborating to confirm that everyone had
been found and evacuated. Part of the issue was that workers on the scene
were so distressed that they were unable to find clear answers regarding
the whereabouts of their crew.
In the end, firefighters determined that a subcontractor was killed in
the explosion, while at least 7 more were injured. As of this blog’s
writing, four workers remain hospitalized while three have been released.
The scene of the massive explosion was still on fire as of only a few
Firefighters also determined that the incident was caused by a puncture
(rather than a full rupture) of the pipe—however, the pipe was working
at full-pressure at the time, making the puncture far more harmful than
it might have been otherwise. In total, the pipeline expelled 168,000
gallons of gasoline.
The pipeline—which is owned by Colonial Pipeline—had contracted
L.E. Bell Construction Co. to provide permanent repairs, as a leak had
been discovered on September 9th. Colonial contracted through L.E. Bell many times before and knew their
men to be well-trained and qualified.
In a rare show of emotion under these circumstances, Colonial’s incident
commander Gerald Beck responded to a question about how he felt when he
heard the pipeline had failed:
“We spend a lot of time, money, and effort to make sure [a disaster]
never happens. So when you ask me what I felt…I felt bad. I still
Our hearts go out to the families of workers who were working on the scene,
and we pray the four men remaining in the hospital recover quickly and