Deadly California house explosion damaged neighboring homes

MURRIETA, Calif. (AP) — A natural gas explosion and fire that killed a Southern California Gas Co. worker and injured 15 other people also badly damaged at least six other homes, officials said Tuesday.

Four homes were red-tagged, meaning they can't be occupied, said Deputy Chief David Lantzer of Murrieta Fire & Rescue.

One home was yellow-tagged, which limits entry, and several others with broken windows and no power were being evaluated.

Twenty people checked in at a Red Cross shelter but only six were housed overnight.

The blast in the city 70 miles (112 kilometers) southeast of Los Angeles occurred Monday after a contractor doing work on the house punctured an underground gas service line, authorities said.

The utility crew was working to repair the line when the explosion occurred, hurling debris widely. The house was then consumed by fire.

The SoCal Gas worker who died at the scene was identified as technician Wade Kilpatrick, 31, who had been with the company for 11 years.

"Obviously, it is an incredible loss for our company," said Randon Lane, a SoCal Gas spokesman.

Three firefighters and two other SoCal Gas workers were among the injured. All five were treated at hospitals and released. Authorities did not discuss the other injuries, citing patient privacy laws.

The blast occurred near a front corner of the house where the gas meter was located. Exactly how the gas line was damaged and the ignition source was being investigated.

Authorities said the work was being done by a solar contractor but did not identify the company involved.

"We're not sure or clear whether or not they were digging, whether they were drilling," Lane said.

The gas company said Monday that the contractor did not call in advance to request that gas lines be marked before any work was done.

"It is a free service that is provided for all utilities so that anybody doing any type of work in the ground can call and that company will come out and identify, mark the lines on the ground, where all utilities are," Lane said.

Under state law, a call is required before any type of digging is done, he said.