Fiery pipeline blast kills man

Crews wait for Thomson blaze to burn out

Rainier Ehrhardt/Staff
A view taken from an Air Med helicopter shows the fire Monday from a gas line rupture near Stagecoach Road in Thomson, Ga.
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THOMSON --- An explosion from a ruptured propane gas line injured a McDuffie County commissioner Monday, killed his 23-year-old son and sparked a fire that scorched about 20 acres.

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Flames and black smoke billow from the gas line explosion off Stagecoach Road in Thomson. A bulldozer hit the line accidentally.   Rainier Ehrhardt/Staff
Rainier Ehrhardt/Staff
Flames and black smoke billow from the gas line explosion off Stagecoach Road in Thomson. A bulldozer hit the line accidentally.

Glenn Allen, a spokesman for Georgia Insurance and Safety Fire Commissioner John Oxendine, identified the victims as Paul McCorkle and his son Jason.

Allen said a preliminary investigation indicates Paul McCorkle was using a bulldozer about 10:45 a.m. to grade property where his two sons, Jason and Jon, lived off Stagecoach Road when he accidentally struck an 8-inch Dixie Pipeline liquid propane gas line two feet underground.

The explosion did not happen immediately, and McCorkle got off the bulldozer and drove home to nearby Belle Meade subdivision, where he called 911, said Gary Nicholson, the special agent in charge of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation's Thomson office.

While he was gone, Jason McCorkle came onto the property and was apparently killed instantly when the gas line exploded.

Officials from at least five agencies are investigating: the GBI; the county sheriff's department, coroner's office and Fire/Rescue Services; and the State Fire Marshal's Office.

"We're treating it as a tragic accident," Nicholson said. He said his agency was asked to assist by Sheriff Logan Marshall.

The gas line, which is about 30 years old, extends from Texas to North Carolina.

Paul McCorkle, a first-term county commissioner, was discharged Monday night from Joseph M. Still Burn Center at Doctors Hospital, spokeswoman Anne Cordeiro said. His injuries were described as "frostbite burns," by Fire/Rescue Services Chief Bruce Tanner.

About 20 acres of woodlands burned, as did a doublewide mobile home that was the home of Jon McCorkle, Tanner said. A shed, a Jeep and the bulldozer also burned.

On Monday afternoon, officials said the fire had spread toward Interstate 20 and caused traffic delays. Later, they said that was an unconnected woods fire.

Tanner said firefighters were not trying to stop the blaze at the rupture because there was still gas in the pipeline.

"When the fire goes out, then you've got a problem because you've got raw gas that could ignite backfires," Tanner said. "If the gas were just coming out of that line and had not ignited, it would find low places until it found an ignition source."

When the line has purged, the fire will stop on its own, he said, but that might take 24 hours -- until as late as this afternoon.

Fire officials chose not to evacuate the area and said nearby residents were not in danger.

As many as 50 cars lined Stagecoach Road on Monday afternoon as Thomson residents gathered. Some held their hands over their mouths in shock as they stared at the billowing, black clouds.

Matt Williams said he heard the explosion while he was in a nearby Waffle House and arrived at the scene about the same time as firefighters.

"It looked like a bomb went off," he said. "You don't expect anything like this in a small town like Thomson. You hear things like that in big cities, but not around here.

"It sounded like bottle rockets going off in the parking lot," Williams said. "I turned around and said 'Who in the world is shooting off bottle rockets at Waffle House?' Then I saw the mushroom cloud go up."

He said he knows the McCorkle family and "I feel empty inside."

About 50 firefighters from McDuffie, Warren, Wrens, Martinez/Columbia County, Wilkes and Richmond counties battled the fire for several hours Monday.

McDuffie Mirror reporter Billy Hobbs contributed to this article.

Comments (41) Add comment
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TakeAstand
13
Points
TakeAstand 07/05/10 - 01:36 pm
0
0
My deepest sympathy and

My deepest sympathy and prayers for this family!

Sweet son
11763
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Sweet son 07/05/10 - 02:15 pm
0
0
I am so sorry for the

I am so sorry for the McCorkle family. What a tragedy. I own property that is adjacent to the Southern Natural Gas pipeline in South Richmond county. My daughter grew up playing on the pipeline and I am sure it is safe but I never really realized how dangerous it was if you dug on it. Please be careful.

Riverman1
94257
Points
Riverman1 07/05/10 - 02:53 pm
0
0
A major natural gas line runs

A major natural gas line runs at the rear border of part of my property in Aiken County. The line was laid about 1960. I've read these pipe lines have been allowed to deteriorate all over the country and in many cases are actually leaking. I certainly hope this one is well maintained.

dani
13
Points
dani 07/05/10 - 03:15 pm
0
0
How awful for the McCorkle

How awful for the McCorkle family. My heartfelt prayers go out to the family and friends.

dougk
3
Points
dougk 07/05/10 - 04:48 pm
0
0
Another tragedy brings out
Unpublished

Another tragedy brings out those people who are compelled to blame the victim(s). It is an amazing personality trait...one that should be examined more closely.
The McCorkle family is my thoughts.

Jillian
2
Points
Jillian 07/05/10 - 03:40 pm
0
0
Wonder if his wife was home

Wonder if his wife was home too?

cggrant
0
Points
cggrant 07/05/10 - 03:59 pm
0
0
This was on the other side of

This was on the other side of the creek in my backyard(that seperates my family's property from the McCorkle's).. It was an ACCIDENT and very scary. I woke up to what felt like an Earthquake, and the flames were reaching beyond the tree tops. It's still going, but thankfully not as bad as it was in the beginning. My prayers go out to the McCorkles; thank you fire-fighters, policemen, and ambulences.

billybob88
0
Points
billybob88 07/05/10 - 04:21 pm
0
0
I drove by the area soon

I drove by the area soon after it happened. It looked to me like the gas had leaked for sometime before it ignited. The whole little valley and creek area had charred and wood was smoldering hundreds of feet from the main fire. So sad for the McCorkle family.

HistoryBuff
0
Points
HistoryBuff 07/05/10 - 05:52 pm
0
0
Knowing Mr. Paul, I highly

Knowing Mr. Paul, I highly doubt he was being negligent. The McCorkles have not been in business as long as they have by being careless with large equipment. My heart breaks at the loss of Jason. My thoughts are with the family, the firefighters, and the investigators.

thomson2
0
Points
thomson2 07/05/10 - 06:11 pm
0
0
my sympathy to the Mc Corkle

my sympathy to the Mc Corkle Family...

iletuknow
8
Points
iletuknow 07/05/10 - 06:26 pm
0
0
Is the gas line above or

Is the gas line above or below ground?

disssman
6
Points
disssman 07/05/10 - 06:33 pm
0
0
My god, don't they have these

My god, don't they have these things marked? You would think there would be a marker every 100 feet for such a thing, especially in farm country. I really feel sorry for the guy, especially if his son was killed. He will probably never get over it.

esmc68
0
Points
esmc68 07/05/10 - 07:27 pm
0
0
Agreed historybuff

Agreed historybuff

lricha14
0
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lricha14 07/05/10 - 07:55 pm
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I went to high school with

I went to high school with Jason and my dad was friends with Mr. Paul. They are a wonderful family and my thoughts and prayers go out to Mrs. Bonnie, John, and Mr. Paul. Jason was such a wonderful person and I know he will be forever missed.

Sargebaby
4693
Points
Sargebaby 07/05/10 - 08:40 pm
0
0
lricha14, our Grandson also

lricha14, our Grandson also went to school with Jason, and was shocked and saddened to learn of this terrible tragedy. Jason bought a bike from Jay when they were in school together. Terrible accident, and I send out our sincere sympathies to the family.

Veggie usually deserves a "snuff it!"

sassygirl8
0
Points
sassygirl8 07/05/10 - 09:49 pm
0
0
This is so sad. My heart

This is so sad. My heart aches for this family. I did not know them but from the remarks made they seemed like a fun loving family. My heart goes out to all of them God bless each and every one of them, And give them strength to get through this

Momyar
0
Points
Momyar 07/05/10 - 10:30 pm
0
0
If you google map the address

If you google map the address you can clearly see the gas line has been clear cut. Folks that live in that area are very aware of the gas line.

So sorry for their loss and pain

guana219
0
Points
guana219 07/05/10 - 10:08 pm
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To Veggie-D. You obviously

To Veggie-D. You obviously do not know Paul McCorkle. He is one of the most knowledgeable and skilled heavy machinery operators in the state. I went to school with Paul and have spent time with him on his family farm. Your comment is inexcusable and pathetic. Try prayer rather than criticism.

iletuknow
8
Points
iletuknow 07/05/10 - 11:02 pm
0
0
Sounds crazy that someone

Sounds crazy that someone could run a bulldozer into a clearly visible and well known gas pipeline.

bettyboop
8
Points
bettyboop 07/06/10 - 06:32 am
0
0
Terrible accident.....my

Terrible accident.....my prayers are with the family.

shockproof
0
Points
shockproof 07/06/10 - 06:54 am
0
0
At one time I worked for a

At one time I worked for a State owned facitlity that had a garage. There were signs placed on all walls that read "ALL ACCIDENTS ARE
PREVENTABLE".

This is true.

shockproof
0
Points
shockproof 07/06/10 - 06:55 am
0
0
example, if i had proofread

example, if i had proofread my post, I would have seen that I misspelled "facility"...oops!

getalife
4
Points
getalife 07/06/10 - 07:29 am
0
0
My thoughts and prayers are

My thoughts and prayers are with the family.

shockproof
0
Points
shockproof 07/06/10 - 07:56 am
0
0
There is a difference between

There is a difference between objective and subjective comments. Boths sides are making points, but from difference perspectives. Getting angry at what another blogger writes is foolish or trying to degrade another's opinion is why we waste so much time thinking we are justifying our own sense of what is right and wrong. Many of us are just plain arrogant. And if for one moment you think the McCorkles are reading our yakking, you are very wrong...we are doing this to hear our ownselves.

getalife
4
Points
getalife 07/06/10 - 08:15 am
0
0
Some of the information in

Some of the information in this article is questionable. The statement that Paul McCorkle left and went home and called 911. If he did this, how did he get burned? Also, why does it take 5 agencies to investigate this accident, seems like a little over kill and a waste of time and resources.

gnumbgnuts
0
Points
gnumbgnuts 07/06/10 - 08:44 am
0
0
getalife, read the article

getalife, read the article again. LP=cold=frostbite burns.

brute 89
0
Points
brute 89 07/06/10 - 08:46 am
0
0
My thoughts are with the

My thoughts are with the family as well. I have worked around pipelines for many years with heavy equipment and the first thing you are required to do by law is call the locating company for that line and get them to tell you the depth of the line in the area you are going to be working. The next thing is all pipelines are marked clearly and the signs tell you what is carried by that line. In the case at hand Mr. McCorkle knew the line had been on the family property for many years. His negeligence is what caused the accident.

Miss Hap
0
Points
Miss Hap 07/06/10 - 08:56 am
0
0
My condolences for the

My condolences for the family's loss, I know that this unintentional, tragic event will haunt them for a long time to come.

A word about the photograph. Amazing! This is probably the best shot of the year, kudos go to the photographer.

airbud7
1
Points
airbud7 07/06/10 - 09:33 am
0
0
When I read about this

When I read about this accident I called my son and told him how much I love him. this is truely sad.

GA4091
0
Points
GA4091 07/06/10 - 09:35 am
0
0
He had gas burns, not fire

He had gas burns, not fire burns. There was a pressure explosion which knocked him off the bull Dozier and he was able to reach his truck to drive home and call 911. Unfortunately Jason arrived on the scene UN aware of what was going on when the fire explosion took place. He was grading the road and pond dam like he has done for years when it gets rough. The pipeline runs across the road and is suppose to be checked annually for depth and if it does not meet requirements then it needs to be back filled by the gas company. Mr. McCorkle was not digging on a clearly marked gas line; he was grading his road which runs through his property. People need to get their facts straight before posting negligence as cause. Mr. McCorkle owns, operates and sells heavy equipment for a living and he would have not been grading over a pipeline if he had any idea it was that close to the surface.

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