Pipeline explosion kills 1, injures 5 near Helena

Published 4:11 pm Monday, October 31, 2016

By GRAHAM BROOKS / Staff Writer

On Monday, Oct. 31, a gas line explosion occurred on River Road near the Helena city limits that initially caused the shutdown of Colonial’s two main pipelines, but as of 11 a.m. on Nov. 1, Line 2 had been restarted while Line 1 will remain shut down, according to Colonial.

The explosion on the afternoon of Oct. 31 resulted in one fatality and five individuals being treated for injuries.

“At this time, we anticipate Line 1 remaining down for the remainder of this week. Line 2, which transports diesel, jet fuel and other distillates, was restarted at approximately 11 p.m. (Nov. 1),” read a release from Colonial.

Multiple agencies, including the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office, Helena Police and Fire Departments, Indian Ford Fire Department, The Shelby County Emergency Management Agency, the Alabama Forestry Commission, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and more responded to the site of the explosion.

Helena Mayor Mark Hall said the explosion occurred on River Road near Shelby County 13, which is in Shelby County but outside the Helena city limits.

“We had some people who called and reported the explosion who were near the area and right now you can see the smoke from the high school,” said Hall. “It’s just a big concentrated flume of smoke and agencies are responding.”

The Helena Police Department said Helena residents were not in any danger during the time of the explosion because it occurred in a rural area of the county.

Colonial Pipeline officials said the explosion occurred when, “a contract crew working on Colonial’s gasoline pipeline Line 1 experienced an incident when the trackhoe it was using hit the line.”

After striking the line, gasoline was ignited and caused a large fire.

After the explosion occurred, Colonial Pipeline officials shut down its two main pipelines.

As emergency crews worked late into the evening on Oct. 31, the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office released a statement at 7:30 p.m., saying, “the situation is contained and emergency personnel will remain on scene monitoring the area of the explosion.”

“Our deepest condolences go out tonight to the family and friends of the person who was lost today, and our thoughts and prayers are with those who were injured,” read another statement from Colonial Pipeline.

A local church in Helena announced they are accepting donations of non-perishable food and water for those affected by the explosion. The donations may be taken to Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church, located at 6700 Shelby County 13 in Helena.

The location of the gas line explosion on Oct. 31 is several miles away from the site of the Sept. 9 Colonial Pipeline leak.