A final report on the Lincoln County, KY, gas pipeline that exploded and killed one woman and injured scores of others could take over a year to complete, federal officials said.
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is leading the investigation with help from the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, both of which are federal agencies.
NTSB senior accident investigator Mike Hiller said it’s too early to determine the cause of the explosion in the 62-year-old pipeline. Corrosion will be among the factors investigated, he said.
“We’re going to seek all the repair history and maintenance records for this section of pipe,” Hiller said, adding officials likely will take a piece of pipe back to Washington, D.C., to study.
Hiller said he didn’t yet know how much land was impacted, but an aerial survey will be conducted. The NTSB also will check the integrity of two adjacent pipelines.
Families displaced from their homes were able to return Saturday to gather personal belongings, but Hiller didn’t say when it would be safe for them to return permanently. Investigators are on site making sure the area is safe, he said.
Five homes were destroyed and at least four were damaged in the Indian Camp mobile home park in Stanford, where the explosion occurred. Flames reached more than 300 feet and melted tar on nearby roads, officials said.
Kentucky State Police Trooper Robert Purdy said one of the people at the scene of the incident described it “more like Mars than anything.”
“It’s just red dirt is all that you see and gravel (and) rocks,” Purdy said. “That’s all that’s left in several areas.”
Investigators from the NTSB and the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration will be on site for at least a week, Hiller said. The team is in the process of documenting the explosion and will interview witnesses, emergency responders and pipeline operators.
The NTSB won’t determine the cause of the incident while at the scene, and the final report could take 12 to 18 months to complete, Hiller said.
The Texas Eastern Pipeline, which is owned by Enbridge, was installed in 1957, according to the NTSB. There are roughly 9,000 miles of pipeline that connects the Texas Gulf Coast area to the northeast.