Front loader to blame for deadly explosion at Fresno County Peace Officers Gun Range

FRESNO, Calif. -- Action News has learned a front loader is to blame for the deadly explosion at the Fresno County Peace Officers Gun Range in April.

Third-party testing of the Pacific Gas and Electric pipeline found the pipe was punctured by the front loader that was being operated by a Fresno County Public Works employee at the time of the explosion. The Fresno County Sheriff's Office had said the front loader was only being used to smooth dirt in the area.

The report -- issued this afternoon by Bay Area-based Exponent -- also finds corrosion, stress or fatigue not to be a factor in the explosion.

A Fresno County inmate died from his injuries several weeks after the incident. Ten other inmates and the front loader operator were also injured in the blast.

PG&E released the following statement Monday afternoon:

First and foremost, our thoughts continue to be with the individuals who were impacted by this incident.

The recently published Exponent report found that our transmission pipeline in Fresno "ruptured when it was struck by a front loader that was operating in the area at the time of the incident. The significant gouging, scraping and deformation present at the Line 118B rupture location could have only been caused by contact with the front-loader bucket [and] the seam weld fracture was a consequence, not a cause, of the rupture."

PG&E continues to cooperate with the CPUC in a timely manner regarding any information about its ongoing investigation. The CPUC is the lead agency reviewing the incident.

We want all of our customers to know that calling 811 before you dig is critical. This free service will locate and mark all underground utilities in your proposed excavation site. Making this simple phone call will help keep you, your family and community safe.

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