Warrant: Contractor mismarked gas line before deadly blast in Sun Prairie

Published: Nov. 1, 2018 at 8:12 AM CDT
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Court documents say a contractor failed to properly mark a natural gas line that was struck and caused a deadly explosion in downtown Sun Prairie in July 2018.

A search warrant recently unsealed in Dane County Circuit Court says VC Tech was sub-contracted by Bear Communications to place a fiber communication line underground for Verizon. According to documents, the previous contractor conducted horizontal/directional boring on North Bristol Street, north of the intersection of Bristol Street and Main Street.

A contractor from VC Tech assessed the project by reviewing the painted utility lines placed by USIC and determined a strategy to maneuver through intersecting utilities. The contractor believed he pulled approximately 40 feet of piping north from the southwest corner of the intersection when he and other VC tech employees smelled gas.

The contractor took pictures of the intersection prior to evacuating the area. According to the search warrant, there were no T markings in the area where the damaged gas line was later found, therefore the contractor did not know of the intersecting gas line.

According to the search warrant, an employee of USIC failed to correctly mark the gas line in the street and instead targeted a spot on a sidewalk about 25 feet away.

The reports says the employee was contacted on July 16th and refused to talk to investigators. USIC has not responded to messages about the warrant.

Firefighter Cory Barr was killed July 10 when a subcontractor placing a fiber communications lines underground for Verizon ruptured a gas line and triggered an explosion and fire. Firefighter Ryan Welch was critically injured. The blast destroyed six businesses and one home.

Here is a statement released from Sun Prairie Police Department:
The Sun Prairie Police Department is aware that a search warrant written in late July was recently unsealed on October 17th. The information revealed in the search warrant is a component of the investigation and is not conclusive in itself. Because this continues to be an ongoing investigation, no further information is available at this time. The Sun Prairie Police Department continues to review all the facts of the case with the State Fire Marshall’s Office, the Dane County District Attorney’s Office and the Wisconsin Attorney General’s Office. When a case disposition has been determined, that case disposition will be communicated publicly by the Sun Prairie Police Department.