The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is investigating the fatal explosion that happened in New York City last month. Two residential buildings collapsed in the explosion, killing at least eight persons and injuring more than two dozen. The explosion followed a gas leak reported early on March 12 to Consolidated Edison Inc. (Con Ed). Robert Sumwalt, a NTSB board member, said the explosion is believed to have involved a cast iron distribution pipeline carrying natural gas at low pressure.
The NTSB’s investigation will determine the cause of the explosion and will focus on whether Con Ed played a role in the explosion. Its investigators will probe how the utility handled gas leak reports from residents of those buildings before the accident occurred. The investigation will also assess the safety of the pipeline involved. Although the NTSB is more frequently involved in airline safety investigations, “all modes of transportation” fall under the agency’s purview, and it has the statutory authority to oversee pipeline safety, according to Sumwalt.
The NTSB initially sent a team of four experts to the site to start the investigation. It’s expected that this will be a lengthy investigation. Pipeline investigator Ravi Chhatre will lead the investigation, and Sumwalt will serve with the team and be its spokesman while the team is on-site.
The explosion took place shortly after 9.30 a.m. on March 12 near Park Avenue and East 116th Street in New York City. Reportedly, the explosion took place within minutes of Con Ed receiving a report of a gas odor at one of the buildings. The NTSB’s investigation will scrutinize Con Ed’s call logs, and determine whether the utility needs more oversight from state and federal regulators, according to Sumwalt. The two collapsed buildings had a total of 15 residential apartments between them.
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