Los Angeles, CA Gas Pipeline Explosion, June 1976


Los Angeles (AP) -- Deaths in Wednesday's massive gasoline explosion have reached four. An 18-inch miscalculation was blamed for the devastation.
Four women are dead and 16 people have been hospitalized as a result the blast.
Among the dead are two sisters. MAE WOODS, 71, of 1743 Washington Boulevard, Los Angeles, died Thursday morning at County-USC Medical Center from burns suffered in the blast. Her sister, 53-year-old CLARE DOWNE of Phoenix, Ariz., died at the hospital Wednesday.
ELIZABETH AVILA, 70, was burned to death at the scene while CORA LINDLOFF, 92, died of a heart attack as she fled the flames.
Seven people were critically injured in the blast. Nine other victims of the explosion are listed in serious condition at Brotman.
Webster B. Todd, Jr., chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board, said yesterday that investigations had revealed ".. that someone was 18 inches wrong. We don't know who, but we're going to try to find out."
The blast destroyed the north side of the 9500 block of Venice Boulevard in the Palms area.
A workman on a street widening project set off the fiery explosion when he sliced an underground pipeline, releasing thousands of gallons of the gasoline.
Todd is one of several federal, state and local authorities investigating the disaster. The 18-inch figure was a reference to findings that test borings made in 1975 showed the pipe was at least 18 inches below the bottom of the proposed roadbed.
The error could have been caused by faulty test borings, a upward bulging of the pipe or a workman's mistake. Whatever the reason, Todd criticized the lack of caution.
"Someone should make damn certain exactly where that pipeline is located. You don't just fool around in a situation like that," he said.
City Councilman Zev Yaroslavsky called yesterday for another investigation to be handled by the Public Works Committee, saying, "For this thing to happen is inexcusable. I'm not going to suggest who was responsible, but human error is involved somewhere, and it cannot be allowed to go unchallenged. The people responsible must be brought to answer for this matter."
Todd said problems with the pipeline had already surfaced in the street widening project, funded by the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) and contracted by the Griffith Co., of Long Beach.
A 700-foot section of the Standard Oil pipe, which was carrying low-lead gasoline, was lowered in an area just three blocks from the explosion site because it was too close to the roadway, Todd said.

Oakland Tribune California 1976-06-18