San Bruno Explosion Provides Tragic Illustration of Power of Natural Gas

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Attorneys from Shea & Shea identify aspects of accident that are consistent with other natural gas explosions, point out likely contributing factors

The reason for this is that the odor typically associated with natural gas is actually added to the gas by the gas provider

The tragic accident in San Bruno on Thursday evening, caused by an explosion that appears to have stemmed from a leak in a natural gas pipeline, should serve as a cautionary reminder of the deadly power of the natural gas that runs through nearly every residential American neighborhood, according to a San Jose attorney with experience in similar incidents.

The fire that raced through a San Bruno neighborhood of single-family homes erupted at about 6:15 p.m. on Thursday when a 30-inch Pacific Gas and Electric Co. natural gas pipeline ruptured, creating a 30-foot-wide crater. The cause of the rupture has not yet been determined.

"Those of us in the Bay Area were all unfortunate witnesses on Thursday night to the fact that natural gas explosions can be deadly and cause catastrophic injuries," said Michael Shea, Jr., an attorney in the San Jose-based law firm of Shea & Shea. "Fortunately, they don't happen frequently, but when they do, the results are often devastating. The affected homes along the distribution lines can be blown off their foundations. Widespread fire, serious injury and death can result throughout an entire neighborhood."

According to Shea, who has represented victims of similar accidents in the past, the cause of a natural gas explosion can be leaking gas from a distribution line in neighborhoods or from appliance or gas lines in or around the home. Many times, the occupants of the home never smell the gas prior to the explosion.

"The reason for this is that the odor typically associated with natural gas is actually added to the gas by the gas provider," explained Shea. "The odors are usually called mercaptans and when gas escapes, the odor can be 'scrubbed' out of the gas so that when the gas is pooling prior to exploding, the gas is odorless. Natural gas can also experience 'odor fade' where the mercaptans are reduced leaving the gas odorless."

Shea & Shea is a nationally recognized personal injury law firm located in San Jose, Calif., with extensive experience in natural gas explosion cases. Natural gas explosions can result in wrongful death, brain injury, and other serious and catastrophic injuries. Since 1966, Shea & Shea has successfully represented the seriously injured and their families in both state and federal courts.

For more information, please call 888.989.SHEA or go to


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Mark B. O'Connor
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