Officials unsure if blast victim told of gas leak

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Associated Press

Posted on January 15, 2013 at 10:32 AM

DALLAS (AP) — Officials in the Dallas suburb where a man was killed inside his home by a gas explosion aren't sure if he was told about a leaking pipeline nearby, a spokesman for the suburb said Monday.

Scott Deahl was critically injured in a blast more than two hours after firefighters in Lewisville were notified about a pipeline that ruptured when an electric company was digging to install a new pole. The 55-year-old died Sunday night. The home he rented from a local nonprofit group was destroyed in a fiery explosion.

Assistant Fire Chief Brian Freed told reporters Friday that Deahl was notified about a gas leak, but not ordered to evacuate because his home was considered upwind from the leak. But city spokesman James Kunke on Monday said Lewisville officials could not confirm that.

"We can't say for sure at this point if someone knocked on Mr. Deahl's door and spoke to him," Kunke said.

Officials believe gas moved underground from the leak site into Deahl's home about 50 to 60 feet away. Atmos Energy employees around the leak did not measure any signs of gas while crews were working on it, Kunke said. Atmos spokeswoman Jennifer Ryan said the company was still reviewing communication between the companies and law enforcement involved.

Any sort of spark could have caused the gas to ignite.

"It didn't go above ground, because we would have smelled it or detected it," Kunke said. Somehow, he said, the gas moved "in a direction that it just shouldn't have gone."

Lewisville is 20 miles northwest of Dallas.

Finding out how it moved underground is the city's biggest priority, Kunke said. The city may eventually change how it notifies and evacuates residents, Kunke said. On Friday, it evacuated two area businesses that were nearby and considered downwind, he said.

"We need to find out how that happened," Kunke said. "In terms of the investigation side, that's the most important information that we're looking for."

Workers for Texas-New Mexico Power Co. were replacing a pole when the natural gas line was struck. Company spokesman Eric Paul said the company had followed protocol in having the street marked with flags before starting work. Once workers noticed the leak, they stopped and contacted Atmos Energy and the fire department, he said.

Atmos and TNMP are conducting investigations into what happened, spokesmen for both companies said.

Deahl is survived by two sisters and a 12-year-old daughter, said Ron Batts, president and CEO of Christian Community Action, which owned the home destroyed in the blast. Deahl lived alone in the home, one of several that CCA rented at subsidized rates to low-income people, Batts said.

Problems with drugs and alcohol separated Deahl from his family, according to a letter Deahl had written this year that Batts shared Monday. Deahl was about to live in his car until he found housing through CCA.

Last year, Deahl unsuccessfully tried to kill himself by cutting his wrists. He eventually called an ambulance. He wrote that while he was in the hospital, two people prayed with him.

"This is part of my story," Deahl wrote in the letter, according to The Dallas Morning News. "Now I'm trying to walk the path with God by doing some volunteer work with CCA, hoping to find my way in life."

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Follow Nomaan Merchant on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/nomaanmerchant

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