• 2 burned in gas-line explosion in Bellevue

    Seattle Times

    An investigation into the explosion that injured two workers on Thursday at a commercial building in Bellevue will focus on how they ignited a gas line.

    Around 9:30 a.m. the workers were soldering in a utility hole at the building in the 14300 block of Southeast Eastgate Way when there was an explosion.

    The plumbers pulled themselves out, still on fire, and other workers doused the pair with water, said Kelley King, their supervisor. Paramedics transported the pair to Harborview Medical Center.

    “It sounds like their clothes caught fire,” King said.

    According to hospital spokeswoman Susan Gregg, one worker, 45, was in satisfactory condition Thursday. The second man, 36, was in serious condition and transferred to the intensive-care unit.

    The fire blew out the glass door of the building, which is undergoing renovation, and began to climb up the facility’s concrete wall, Bellevue Fire Department spokesman Lt. Rich Burke said.

    A sprinkler system prevented the blaze from spreading into the building’s interior.

    There were 50 other construction workers at the site, and no one else was hurt.

    The fire was out by about 11 a.m., according to Burke. He said some gas remained inside the building but was ventilated.

    “It could have been much worse,” Burke said.

    The state Department of Labor & Industries will be conducting an investigation over the next three to six months, spokeswoman Elaine Fischer said.

    “Our inspector has to determine what happened and what safety relations were applied to that particular kind of work and what they were doing to follow those safety regulations,” she says.

    According to Puget Sound Energy spokesman Ray Lane, the construction was happening in an area riddled with wires and pipes that typically “live harmoniously together.”

    “It’s not uncommon for other utility work to occur near active natural-gas lines,” Ray wrote in a Thursday news release. “That work is done safely every day.”

    He said that it’s “too early to speculate” about what caused an exception in this case, but that the investigation will examine the placement and condition of the gas line, as well as whether the construction workers called Puget Sound Energy to determine its location before the soldering began.

    The two injured plumbers are employed by MacDonald-Miller, a construction firm doing work under general contractor BNBuilders.

    Fischer said that the Labor & Industries will typically investigate all parties involved in a subcontracting agreement.

    She couldn’t confirm the businesses under investigation without a preliminary report from the field inspector but did say that MacDonald-Miller hasn’t had any safety violations in the past six years.

    “Safety is primary and paramount for all our projects. Something went wrong today and we’re going to get to the bottom of it,” said Gus Simonds, CEO of MacDonald-Miller. “Our main concern is to the two gentleman that were hurt.”

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