UPDATE, Nov. 16, 4:25 p.m. – A Savannah city utility worker was injured Friday afternoon when a natural gas line he was working on erupted in what a passersby described as a “fireball explosion” reaching up to 15 to 20 feet high.
City Manager Tom Smith arrived at the scene at 2315 Pickwick St. very shortly after the incident. He said the worker was in a ditch working on a natural gas line.
Smith said he was told the worker was airlifted to Vanderbilt Hospital with serious injuries.
“He was working on the line as part of (the road widening) project, trying to purge the line,” Smith said. “You’ve got to purge air out of the line until you get to 100 percent gas, so you’ve got air and gas coming out, which can be a tricky situation.”
Smith said the escaping natural gas could have been ignited by static electricity.
Savannah Fire Department, Savannah Police Department, Hardin County Fire Department Station 12, and Hardin County Sheriff’s Office deputies were dispatched to the scene at 2:04 p.m., arriving on the scene en masse within minutes. The call was closed at 3:04 p.m., exactly an hour later.
A passerby, who said he called Hardin County E-911, said he was impressed by the response of city workers and emergency services.
“They got the gas turned off really quick, so it didn’t blow up worse, and lights and sirens just started showing up from everywhere, it seemed like. They were on that guy and helping him right away – I sure hope he turns out OK,” he said.
Smith asked The Courier to delay identifying the injured man as he was sure the worker had family in Savannah and the outlying county who had yet to be notified. He said the man’s parents, however, were en route to Vanderbilt Hospital.
INITIAL STORY– Authorities are asking motorists to exercise caution this afternoon on Tenn. 128 near St. Mary Catholic Church in Savannah following an apparent natural gas explosion.
Workers and investigators are at the scene and the highway was reopened to traffic at about 2:30 p.m. after being closed for a short time.
A Courier reporter said from the site that it appears some digging was going on in a ditch, causing a “fireball explosion.” One person is known to be injured when the gas line was hit.
This is a developing situation.