Homes evacuated following gas line rupture

July 23, 1993 (~estimated)

Homes evacuated following gas line rupture

By Laurie Lynn Strasser

Staff Writer

Princeton Township police evacuated residents from the Glen Drive neighborhood for nearly two hours Thursday after a fence digger struck a gas main.

The Bob White Fence Co. of Pennington, which was responsible for the ruptured main, should have asked the utility company to spray paint the ground above where the line was buried before it started digging, said Bob Solinski of Public Service Electric and Gas Co.

“They wore supposed to call for a mark-out, which they didn’t do,” he said. “It takes a day if they call in the day before they do it.”

The contractor faces no criminal charges for negligence, Police Chief Mario Musso said.

“That’s between PSE&G and the fence company,” he said. “They’re liable civilly for their action.”

A dozen families were evacuated as natural gas poured from the two-inch main; the rest were not at home, Chief Musso said.

Using a backhoe, PSE&G workers excavated the pipeline and pinched it off, while others toured the neighborhood to check whether houses still were receiving gas. Police gave the all-clear signal at about 2:45 p.m.

Princeton Fire Chief Ray Bianco said incident posed a threat to residents, but that a gas leak in a confined area such as a house is more likely to lead to a major blast than one outside.

If the leak Thursday had ignited, it probably would have produced a small explosion followed by a fire shooting from the source like a torch, he said.

Alexis Michael, 13, and her sister Katie were home alone at the corner of Kimberly Court and Mountain Avenue when a worker with the fence company rushed inside at about 1 p.m. asking if they had 911 emergency phone service.

“The fence people were drilling and they hit a gas line on the first hole,” said Katie. “It was just like brown dirt smoke drifting out.”

Her father Geoffrey left work at Merrill Lynch to drive his daughters to safety. He said he and his neighbor Wesley Card of 10 Kimberly Court had commissioned the wooden fence to keep the deer out.

“We’ve got to go kids,” he told them as he headed for his BMW. “Daddy left a client waiting in his office.”

Patrolman Mark Emann guarded a roadblock at the intersection of Mountain Avenue and Route 206 as a vehicle from Engine Co. No. 1 pulled up, lights flashing. Rescue workers knocked on doors asking residents to leave.

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