CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A control room operator learned about the massive gas explosion Tuesday near Sissonville from a different gas company's controller about 10 minutes after the blast occurred, investigators said Friday night.
National Transportation Safety Board investigators had said previously that the company received no alarm to indicate a pressure drop at a 20-inch-diameter transmission pipeline that ruptured and exploded at about 12:41 p.m. Tuesday near Columbia Gas Transmission's Lanham Compressor Station at Rocky Fork.
Columbia Gas is a subsidiary of NiSource Gas Transmission and Storage.
It took workers more than an hour to find and isolate the section of transmission pipeline where the blast occurred and begin to shut off fuel to the line, investigators said this week.
Investigators would determine if the company's response in shutting off the gas was adequate, NTSB board member Robert Sumwalt told reporters Friday evening at the Wingate Hotel in South Charleston.
Investigators interviewed a Columbia Gas control room operator at the company's Charleston headquarters Thursday night, Sumwalt said. The operator told investigators that he learned of the explosion at about 12:50 p.m., approximately 10 minutes after it happened, when a Cabot Oil and Gas control room operator called him.
Cabot is an independent oil and gas operation.
"A Cabot Gas company controller had received a call from an outside caller ... indicating there was a pipeline explosion," Sumwalt said.
He said investigators would spend next week finding that outside caller and interviewing the CG control room operator. The NTSB would then construct a precise timeline to pinpoint when the Columbia Gas controller became aware of the blast.
Investigators also will look at procedures inside the control room and examine the training the operator received for his job.
Earlier Friday, Columbia Gas CEO Jimmy Staton issued an open letter to the community, saying "something went terribly wrong" and that his company is working tirelessly to find out what happened in Sissonville.
"I know the people of Kanawha County want answers, and rest assured, we will work with the National Transportation Safety Board to find the cause of this incident," Staton wrote. "Our primary responsibility is to ensure public safety through responsible operations.
"We are fully committed to supporting the NTSB investigation into this incident, and will take every step necessary to ensure the continued safety of our pipeline system."
Sumwalt said the NTSB's report would recommend steps that Columbia Gas should take to prevent another incident like this in West Virginia.
"We are very fortunate there was no fatalities but we also recognize that many had their lives turned upside down by this unfortunate event in your community," he said. "NTSB is dedicated to finding out what happened so it can never happen again and that's why we're here."