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Eureka flash fire claims two lives

By Staff | Apr 17, 2013

Days after the tragic flash fire which claimed two lives, the incident at Eureka Hunter Pipeline remains under investigation.

One person remains hospitalized and two are deceased following the Thursday evening flash fire at Triad Hunter’s Eureka Hunter Pipeline on Twin Hickory Road just outside of Wick in Tyler County. The fire was reported at about 7 p.m. and safely extinguished between 11 and 11:30 p.m.

Bruce Phipps, 56, of Marietta, Ohio, passed away the following evening, April 12, due to injuries suffered. Raymond Miller, 43, of Jeanette, Pa., passed away the evening of April 15 due to injuries suffered.

The injured workers were flown to the West Pennsylvania Burn Center in Pittsburgh to be treated for severe burns. Two of them were flown from the scene, while one was transported to Sistersville General Hospital before being airlifted. A fourth person was reportedly taken to the hospital by ambulance, checked for injuries, and then released.

The fire was initially thought to be an explosion at a gas well compression station, but it was later revealed to be a flash fire at a cleaning station.

Tyler County Sheriff Bob Kendle said two tanks and an excavator had caught fire. He stated they are still investigating the cause.

“From my understanding, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration believes it was totally accidental,” said Sheriff Kendle.

Something was believed to have gone wrong during a routine cleaning of the pipeline by utilizing “pigs”. “Pigs” are devices run through the pipelines for varying maintenance needs. The pigs in use at the time of the incident were meant to remove moisture from the line.

Fire departments from Middlebourne, Sistersville, Shirley, Alma, Pleasants County, and St. Marys arrived at the scene, as well as Tyler County Sheriff Deputies and other first responders. Emergency Management volunteers also assisted.

“We took water and ice and went into standby at the staging area in case additional resources were needed,” said Emergency Management Director Tom Cooper. “We stayed out there until they were coming out.

Cooper mentioned that Triad Hunter was very proactive when they began operations in Tyler County over a year ago.

“They brought in trainers from Wild Well Control in Texas to teach our responders how to react to these events,” he said.