MORELAND, Ky — A gas explosion rocked the Kentucky community of Moreland early Thursday, leaving one person dead and setting at least six homes on fire, according to local authorities.
Lincoln County Coroner Farris Marcum told CNN that Lisa Denise Derringer, 58, was killed.
At least five others were injured, according to Dan Gilliam, the director of Lincoln County Emergency Management, and at least six structures were damaged.
Residents were evacuated after the explosion, the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office said. Authorities initially said five to seven people were unaccounted for, but by late Thursday morning detectives had spoken with everyone who lived in the area and did not believe anyone was missing, Trooper Robert Purdy of the Kentucky State Police said.
Gilliam said authorities believe the explosion was the result of a rupture of a 30-inch gas transmission pipeline, but it will take time to definitively determine the cause. “The part of the area that has been compromised — there’s just nothing left,” he told reporters, adding some residents may be able to return to their homes by Thursday afternoon.
“There doesn’t really look like there’s any in-between back there,” Gilliam added. “They’re either destroyed, or they’re still standing.”
Purdy said the impacted area is large, and that the siding of a home approximately 400 or 500 yards from the initial explosion had melted off. The area is devoid of grass and trees, he said, and someone at the scene compared it to the surface of Mars.
Sofia Nunez was at home in Moreland when the explosion happened.
“There was a loud noise and it sounded like a tornado was outside our house. When you stepped outside you could hear the flames and feel the heat. It shook the house for nearly 30 minutes after the flames appeared and neighbors’ windows were shattered,” Nunez told CNN.
A spokesman for Enbridge Gas, which owns the Texas Eastern Pipeline, said the company was working with first responders to secure the scene.
“Our teams are coordinating with first responders to secure the site. We have isolated the affected line and are working closely with emergency responders to manage the situation,” the spokesman said in a statement.
Charlie Lynch woke up in nearby Danville to the whole sky lit by the flames from the explosion. He said he drove 10-15 minutes before taking video, with flames and smoke visible the whole way.
Purdy told reporters that a Lincoln County deputy was one of the first law enforcement personnel on scene. He “described pulling in toward the fire, feeling the heat from the fire come through his windshield,” Purdy said.
The deputy found an elderly man walking around with a cane and a flashlight, looking for his wife. The deputy found her and took both of them to a hospital.
“Without him being there at the right time, we could have had more fatalities and casualties than we had,” Purdy said.