KCC approves agreement over fatal Topeka explosion

TOPEKA, Kansas (AP) — One company will be fined and another will be required to change some of its procedures as part of an agreement reached in response to a natural gas explosion that killed an elderly Topeka woman.

Lucinia Tolliver, 81, died four days after she suffered severe burns from a Jan. 30, 2012, explosion after a lawn service company moved a utility line while installing a sprinkler system in a yard behind her home.

The Kansas Corporation Commission on Wednesday approved an agreement that fines N-Line Lawn Service $5,000 and requires Kansas Gas Service to make several changes but does not impose on fine on the company, The Topeka Capital Journal reported.

A KCC staff report said N-Line workers accidentally caught a gas line owned by Kansas Gas Service with one of its machines and pulled it 18 inches from its original location. The explosion happened about 1½ hours after the line was damaged. The report also noted confusion about which number to call delayed the N-Line worker’s call reporting the damage.

A technician working on an electric kitchen range in Tolliver’s home noticed the smell of gas and advised her to call the gas company, but the report said there is no record of a call from her home. A neighbor reported smelling gas just minutes before the explosion.

Under the agreement, Kansas Gas Service will have to amend its emergency plan, revise its training curriculum and instruct customer service representatives to tell excavators to call 911 if they strike a gas line. It also must hold three training sessions for first responders during the next year, identify areas where gas mains and sanitary sewers are close, and report any acts of noncompliance to commission.

The provision involving sewers was included because the investigation determined the gas could have entered Tolliver’s home through the sewers.

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