Death puts San Bruno toll at 8

A longtime Peninsula resident known fondly by San Francisco students as the “Bug Man” for his work exterminating insects at city schools was the eighth fatality of the massive San Bruno explosion.

Jim Franco, 58, was pronounced dead almost three weeks after the Sept. 9 PG&E natural-gas pipeline exploded. Franco rented a room in the upper level of a home at 951 Glenview Drive, about 200 feet from the blast site.

He worked in pest control and many of his jobs were on San Francisco school campuses, according to longtime friend Eric Laughlin, a firefighter who attended Terra Nova High School in Pacifica with Franco.

“He once showed kids how to find ants with a flashlight,” Laughlin said. “It wound up becoming a class project, and he went out and bought some flashlights for the kids to use.”

Franco was transferred from San Francisco General Hospital in critical condition Sept. 20. He was taken to UCSF Medical Center, where he was in a medically induced coma. The San Mateo County Coroner’s Office was notified of the death Monday morning.

Four patients were initially sent to the hospital after the blast, according to hospital spokeswoman Rachel Kagan. Two patients have since left in “good” condition while another was transferred to a different hospital in fair condition Sept. 18.

Franco was well-known by surfers from the Peninsula shoreline to San Francisco’s Ocean Beach.

A former surfer himself, Franco would take pictures of surfers riding the waves. He served as club photographer for the Pedro Point Surf Club.

About eight months ago, Franco returned to the ocean after living in Las Vegas for about four years, Laughlin said. He had been contemplating retirement when the blast happened.

Friends had held out hope for Franco, but never really had the chance to talk to him. He was conscious when he was put into the ambulance, but his injuries, which included severe burns, required intense medication.

The students who made up his “cult following” also awaited word of his recovery.

“They’d all be asking, ‘When’s the Bug Man going to be better?’” Laughlin said. “The students were all planning to make big banners to hang up in his hospital room.”

Gas line facts

113 Authorized federal pipeline inspectors
217,000 Miles of interstate pipelines
200 Proposed federal pipeline inspectors
4 Feet underground pipeline was buried
100 Feet blast threw
28-foot segment

Source: U.S. Senate testimony

bbegin@sfexaminer.com

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