Man hurt in gas line fire

Posted: Thursday, September 04, 2003

ANCHORAGE (AP) A man injured in a natural gas main explosion and fire has been released from the hospital.

Sasha Clapper, 30, an employee of Quality Asphalt Paving, was taken to Providence Alaska Medical Center with second-degree burns on 25 percent of his body. He was treated and released, according to a nursing supervisor.

The cause of the explosion was under investigation.

The fire burned for about an hour until Enstar Natural Gas Co. cut off gas to the ruptured 2-inch main.

The explosion and fire snarled traffic in an area already slowed for weeks by construction.

Clapper had been working in an excavation area with a propane torch, said fire department spokesman Tom Kempton. The plastic gas main was exposed in a trench dug as part of road reconstruction work.

John Fuglestad, QAP manager, said Clapper was attempting to join a new underground storm-drain pipe to an existing storm drain by wrapping the pipes in a kind of strap and melting the strap to seal the closure.

''It's like a shrink-wrap operation,'' Fuglestad said.

Whether Clapper nicked the gas pipe and broke it, or a leak had developed by other means, was unknown, Fuglestad said. The company's safety officer has yet to finish an investigation, he said.

The gas in the line was under strong pressure, according to Vern Watts, an accident investigator for the Occupational Safety and Health section of the state Department of Labor and Workforce Development.

Firefighters and witnesses said flames erupted 8 feet to 10 feet into the air. Clapper received a flash burn and ran out of the pit with his clothes on fire, Watts said.

Clapper tried to remove his burning clothes as his co-workers rushed him away from the flames, Watts said.

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