Oklahoma City, OK Gas Leak Kills Three, Apr 1978


Oklahoma City (UPI) - Three members of a work crew restoring natural gas service to an indoor shopping center were killed Monday and a fourth was critically injured by gas spewing from a leak in the line.
Two of the victims died in the pit beneath the center's parking lot where they were working and the third was dead on arrival at a hospital.
The dead were L. G. WIEGERT, 50, of Harrah, Okla.; JOHN ALEXANDER, 38, of Oklahoma City; and IRA L. BRYANT, 35, of Choctaw, Okla.
RALPH N. BASEY, 55, of Oklahoma City, was in critical condition at Baptist Medical Center. DAVID JAMES HICKEY, 26, also was overcome by the gas but was revived at the scene.
Oklahoma Natural Gas Co. officials said ALEXANDER and BRYANT were working in a space 6-by-4 feet and 7-to-8 feet deep, making a routine reconnection to an area of the Shepherd Mall shopping center. Gas began spewing from a leak and felled them immediately. BASEY tried to rescue them and was overcome. WIEGERT followed, only to die from the fumes.
HICKEY, the fifth man to enter the hole, was rescued by two other employees, John Golden and Gordon Underwood.
Workers eventually shut off the flow of gas to the pipeline.
There was no explosion and a gas company spokesman said there was no danger to the public.
Kathy Killam, 25, heard the commotion, from her home across the street.
"You could smell the gas really bad,"
she said. "It sounded like a shower turned on, like water rushing, but it was gas."
Mrs. Killam said a fireman wearing a gas mask also became ill from the fumes.
Neighbors were not frightened, she said, but "were all concerned for the safety of the men."
"I was upstairs watering my plants when I heard this noise and a bunch of men yelling," Mrs. Killam said.
"I thought it was a fight. But I ran outside and saw they were trying to get this one man out of the hole so I went back in and called the ambulance."
Fred Davis spokesman for Oklahoma Natural Gas Co., said the men had been working more than a week on a new pipeline to restore service to part of the mall.
At the hospital, a teen-aged girl became hysterical and cried repeatedly, "my daddy, my daddy, my daddy." She was wheeled from the room on a stretcher, still sobbing.
Another woman walked into the hospital and saw her relatives.
"Don't tell me! No, no, no!" she said, as a relative said her brother was dead. "No, no, no," she repeated.
"I've got to see my brother, where is he?" A nurse took the grieving woman by the arm. "He's not here," the nurse whispered.

Daily News Huntingdon Pennsylvania 1978-04-27