St. Francisville, LA Gas Pipeline Explosion, Nov 1984


St. Francisville, La. (AP) -- A natural gas pipeline that was under repair exploded Sunday afternoon, throwing flames above the treetops near an isolated hunting camp, and state police said at least five people were killed and 17 injured.
"As I understand it, we have at least five people dead, probably six," Louisiana State Police Lt. Mike Roop said.
"We presume because of the proximity of the fire to out equipment that (those killed) are employees of our contractor," said James Young of the Texas Eastern Gas Corp., which owns the line.
The bodies of two men were found near a bulldozer and two backhoes in the hilly, heavily-wooded area, Young said. "They were burned fairly badly."
The blast knocked out electricity and telephones in the area.
"All we know is that a construction crew was working on a Texas Eastern line," said West Feliciana Parish Sheriff Bill Daniels. "For some unknown reason, there was an eruption that was followed by an explosion."
"The clock stopped at 1:21," said Tommy Tubbs, who lives across the rural road from the construction site.
Tubbs said he and his wife "ran and opened the door, and looked down the road. We saw what looked to be a dirt cloud -- it must have been 250 feet over the trees."
"Then we heard a loud roar, and the dust cloud turned into flames .... We were scared."
Workers were rehabilitating the pipeline when the blast occurred, Young said.
"We routinely replace pipeline, to maintain the integrity of the pipeline to go along with the density of the population in the area," he said.
As soon as the fire occurred, sensors noted a loss of pressure in the line and shut off the gas supply to the line, Young said. The fire was out by sunset, officials said.
Young said it was uncertain what caused the blast. "We are investigating the cause right now," he said.
The explosion occurred about 12 miles west of St. Francisville, near the intersection of Louisiana Route 10 and Vaughn Creek Road, Roop said.
A deer hunting camp was located adjacent to the construction site, Young said. Deer season opened Friday.
The sheriff said 22 workers were at the site, and that those killed were members of the crew. He also said two people in a hunting camp were among the injured.
"The hunting camp was damaged," he said. "our people went from cabin to cabin and got people out."
Other deer hunters were in the woods when the blast occurred, said a West Feliciana Parish deputy.
He said that he was two miles away from the scene, at the time of the explosion, and felt the ground shake beneath his feet. He refused to give his name.
The injured were originally taken to West Feliciana Hospital in St. Francisville, with those most severely injured transferred to the Baton Rouge General Medical Center, 30 miles to the south.
Eight of the injured were admitted to the hospital, and another four were treated and released, said hospital spokesman Anna Poteet.
Among the injured, with the extent of their injuries were:
LARRY DAVIS, SR., 31, Denham Springs, La., with burns over two percent of his body.
LAURA DAVIS, 25, Denham Springs, La., with burns over nine percent of her body.
LARRY DAVIS, JR., 5, Denham Springs, La., with burns over 7.5 percent of his body.
CHARLES DAVIS, 2, Denham Springs, La., with burns over two percent of his body.
"I believe it was a family, parents and children," said Craig Talbot, spokesman for West Feliciana Hospital.

Frederick News-Post Maryland 1984-11-26