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PG&E launches $100M fund for San Bruno victims

September 14, 2010 12:14:46 AM PDT
The San Bruno victims got their first up-close look at their devastated neighborhood four days after the explosion and fire that killed four people and destroyed 37 homes. This came on the same day that PG&E announced the creation of a $100 million fund to help the victims.

Residents get first look at damaged homes

Phil Perccio was just sitting down to dinner with his wife, 3-year-old daughter and 5-year-old son when the pipeline exploded.

"Everything started vibrating," he said.

From his garage, Perccio saw fire raining down in his backyard.

His family made it out and the house suffered only minor damage. It is green-tagged, meaning he can come back whenever he wants, but he is in no rush. He does not want his kids to have to look out the window at a field of chimneys and their playground that was obliterated.

Residents whose houses suffered more damage and have been red and yellow-tagged went to a closed-door meeting with city officials to find out about getting back in. The city has promised to help residents of red-tagged homes find temporary housing.

Monday, many of the residents whose home suffered the worst damage got their first look at their homes during a bus tour of the neighborhood. Individual homeowners could not get out of the buses to look at their properties but the city says they will soon be allowed to make individual appointments to take a closer look.

Owners of the 10 yellow-tagged homes will be soon be able to make appointments to visit their homes accompanied by housing inspectors. The city is taking steps to streamline the permitting process so homeowners can begin to make repairs.

PG&E announces $100 million fund

PG&E is facing mounting frustration from people in the neighborhood. Many claim they smelled gas and even saw PG&E crews in the area days before the deadly blast.

Early Monday, federal investigators crated up a 28-foot section of the pipe that exploded and put it on a flatbed truck for a trip to Washington D.C. where investigators will look for flaws or any other clues as to why it blew.

The pipe that exploded was 50 years old and it had been inspected twice within the last year.

Monday, PG&E President Chris Johns said there is no amount of money that can make up for the loss, but the company is going to start by handing out a big check. It gave $3 million to the city of San Bruno Monday, part of a total of $100 million donation.

But as residents toured their destroyed homes for the first time, the anger against PG&E was mounting. Many say they smelled an odor in the days before the blast.

"I didn't think anything else of it until someone mentioned the gas smell, but it was a smell at that point where the houses ignited," resident Darlene Esola said.

PG&E maintains there are no records of any gas leak reports from residents.

"We have not found anything in our records that would indicate that people called for that specific area," Johns said.

Jose Alvarado did not call when he smelled gas because he said he felt like he did not need to; he says he saw a PG&E worker on Glenview Drive using a wand to check for a gas leak two days before the blast.

"I saw a guy from PG&E, he was checking something," Alvarado said.

But PG&E says there is also no record of any crews in the area.

"We don't have a record of that; we'd like customers to come forward with any info they have so we can investigate that further,' company spokesperson Brian Swanson said.

The utility company records all gas report calls and officials say they will hand all call logs over to the NTSB for an independent review.

PG&E is not yet saying what exactly caused the pipe to explode and shoot 100 feet into the air, but officials do say it was inspected as recently as March.

"When we looked at it historically we did not anticipate any issues with it at that point," Johns said.

Victims of the fire will soon be receiving between $15,000 and $50,000 from PG&E, depending on the extent of the damage. The company emphasized there are no strings attached. The money comes from shareholder funds and residents will not be forced to waive the right to file future potential claims in order to receive the funds.

Surveillance videos show blast

Video is emerging that captured the scene of the explosion just seconds after the blast.

Gas station surveillance video shows a man who had stopped to fill up his tank, when a huge fireball rises up across the street. In that same video, a woman can be seen running away from the flames, while holding a baby.

Another video was taken inside a Lunardi's grocery store near the explosion. Patrons can be seen running out of the store.

Emergency responders faced confusion, misinformation

Also Monday, ABC7 received radio dispatch recordings of the moments following the explosion.

The I-team's Dan Noyes spent his day listening to the recordings and investigating the confusion and misinformation fire crews dealt with after arriving on scene.

Victims remembered; four people still missing

A San Francisco school held a prayer service Monday morning for two of the victims of last Thursday's disaster.

Thirteen-year-old Janessa and her mother Jacqueline both died inside their home on Claremont Drive when the gas line exploded.

Janessa Greig was student body president at Saint Cecilia's catholic grammar school in San Francisco's Sunset District. She also wrote for the school's newspaper.

Monday, classmates, faculty and administrators gathered together to remember Greig and her mother

"It's a time to remember her gifts and talents, to remember her mother who was a beautiful person and we know that they are in God's loving embrace and yet our hearts are broken," Principal Sr. Marilyn Miller said.

Twenty-year-old Jessica Morales died Friday morning. Her boyfriend, 20-year-old Joseph Ruigomez, is in critical condition. He was badly burned trying rescuing her.

The fire also claimed the life of 81-year-old Elizabeth Torres and injured three members of her family.

San Bruno officials say two of the six people previously reported missing in the explosion have now been located. That leaves four people unaccounted for.

The missing includes three members of the Bullis family. Relatives say they are worried that Lavonne, Gregory and William Bullis died in the fire.

Officials have not publically identified the fourth missing person.

CPUC sets up number to reported gas smell

The California Public Utilities Commission has established a toll-free number and e-mail address for anyone who noticed the smell. People can call (800) 789-0550 or send an e-mail SBFire@cpuc.ca.gov if they smelled the gas.

The NTSB has also set up a tip line for their investigation. They are interested in reports of a natural gas order or any plants dying. You can e-mail information or armature video related to this case to: sanbruno@ntsb.gov

ABC7 Continuing Coverage:
RAW VIDEO: Explosion captured on gas station video
RAW VIDEO: Reactions to explosion captured on video
RAW VIDEO: NTSB Monday afternoon update
Some San Bruno residents allowed to return
RAW VIDEO: NTSB Sunday afternoon update
RAW SKY7 VIDEO: Friday morning over San Bruno
VIDEO: Photographer's first-hand account of devastation
VIDEO: Eyewitness account
PHOTOS: San Bruno explosion
VIDEO: "I thought - this is judgment day"
VIDEO: Fire consumes neighborhood
VIDEO: Photographer captures images moments after blast

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