Oshawa, ON Gas Line Explosion, Oct 1985


Oshawa, Ontario (AH) -- Workers using excavation equipment broke a main natural gas pipeline Thursday, causing an explosion that killed one person, burned three and started an intense fire that took an hour to control.
Workmen from Walker-Wright Drainage Ltd. were digging on a farm north of Oshawa to install tile in a drainage channel when the equipment hit and damaged a 20-inch thick underground steel pipe, a main natural gas conduit for TransCanada Pipe Lines.
Firefighters said they had to wait for the gas to burn off in 18 miles of pipe before tackling the fire that followed the explosion at 2:15 p.m. The blaze
produced flames up to 100 yards high.
"The noise was terrific," said Helen Powell, who owns a neighboring farm and was out for a walk at the time of the blast. "There was a roar of flames. You couldn't talk to anyone, it was so loud."
After the explosion "one man ran out of the bush to our barn," the shaken Powell recalled. "He was badly burned. His hair was burned off, and the skin came off his back when the ambulance attendants pulled off his shirt."
"He didn't scream. He was conscious and quiet. He knew what was going on, but I think he was in shock."
Wayne Halbert rushed to the scene from his nearby home when he heard the blast. "It was like an atomic bomb," he said.
Halbert found a man lying on the lawn of the farm where the blast occurred, about 300 yards from the point of the explosion.
"He was pretty badly burned," Halbert said. "His face was still burning. The skin on his hands was peeled off," he said.
Halbert and another passerby administered first aid to the victim, who was conscious and alert.
DONALD WRIGHT, 33, of nearby Bethany, a part-owner of the contracting company, was killed in the explosion. GRAHAM DUFF, 33, of Blackstock, and KEVIN BRAZIER, 24, of Lindsay, were in fair condition in a hospital. JOSEPH PETERS, 22, of Omeemee, was treated and released, officials said.
Roy Walker, owner of the Lindsay, Ontario, company that was installing the tile, said a representative of TransCanada Pipelines was on the scene when the explosion occurred.
Walker said it was usual practice for his workers to wait for a gas line to be identified before they started digging.
Asked if the line on the farm north os Oshawa had been located before excavation began, Walker said, "I think it was, but, I'm not sure .. I wonder, but I don't know."
Natural gas supplies were diverted to other lines, Watkinson said, and there was no loss of service to customers.
Coroner Charles McIlveen planned to conduct an autopsy on the dead man and has called an inquest into the explosion.

Roswell Daily Record New Mexico 1985-10-18