NTSB receives report of resident smelling gas prior to explosion

Federal investigators have received a report of a resident smelling gas a few weeks prior to Thursday's gas line explosion and fire in San Bruno and are asking more residents to step forward with information that will help them determine if the pipe was leaking before the incident.

So far the agency has received almost 90 e-mails from residents, including the one from the person who reported smelling gas and notifying PG&E, National Transportation Safety Board vice chairman Christopher Hart said at a news conference today.

He said the agency is asking residents to report whether they smelled gas and if they contacted any officials about it, be it representatives from PG&E, emergency officials, or the California Public Utilities Commission.

“We're trying to figure out if (the pipe) failed catastrophically or by virtue of a leak, with gas meeting air and then being sparked,” Hart said.

He said the ruptured pipe was en route this afternoon to Washington, D.C., for investigation.

The rupture caused a fire that killed four people, injured about 50, and destroyed at least 37 homes in San Bruno's Crestmoor Canyon neighborhood.

The transportation safety board is also trying to establish a timeline to determine how long it took for gas in the area to be turned off after the pipe ruptured, Hart said.

He added that a PG&E gas line failed in San Francisco in 1982, which prompted the agency to make recommendations related to responding to emergencies.

The timeline would assess how quickly and effectively officials responded to last week's incident, Hart said.

It would help investigators determine if employees were adequately trained and if turn-off valves were properly preserved.

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