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March 27, 2013

Consumers Energy fires employees after explosion

Streets reopened, debris cleanup set to begin

By Chris Jackett
C & G Staff Writer

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Consumers Energy was on the scene at 4232 Cooper March 20, looking over the damage done during the Feb. 27 house explosion. Each of the neighboring houses to the north and south were also heavily damaged and fenced off.

ROYAL OAK — The site of the house that exploded Feb. 27 will begin to get cleaned up, and employees who did not follow procedures have been terminated, Consumers Energy representatives said.

In a March 15 press release, Consumers Energy said the employees who apparently ruptured the gas main pipe at 4232 Cooper were fired. On March 22, spokeswoman Debra Dodd said the streets should be open to traffic, and debris removal was set to begin as soon as that weekend.

“We’re not giving out numbers or names,” Dodd said of the employee firings, although reports have said three were working at the site prior to the explosion that was felt three miles away. “Now the property has been turned over to the insurance company and cleanup can begin.”

The decision to remove the employees was held off until the bulk of the investigation was complete.

“Following the tragic explosion in Royal Oak on Feb. 27, we have been conducting a thorough investigation, including employee interviews, system inspection and policy review,” Consumers Energy representatives  said in the release. “Based on our findings to date, we have taken appropriate disciplinary action, including terminations for failure to follow established policies and procedures. We take our responsibility to protect our communities, customers and employees very seriously and are committed to a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to their safety.”

Following a review of the safety and operational procedures in place, Consumers Energy resumed boring operations, which had been on hold since the explosion, throughout the state March 18.

“Our experts continue to be available to meet with residents and businesses in a wider area around the site, identifying any concerns and offering additional safety testing,” Consumers Energy representatives said in the release.

The explosion, which occurred at about 5 p.m. Feb. 27, killed resident Daniel Malczynski, 58, after a boring drill apparently ruptured a gas pipe earlier in the day. Consumers Energy representatives said in a press release the day after the incident that “a gas service line to the house was damaged and was the possible cause of the explosion.”

The explosion also damaged 30-35 nearby residences, many of which were boarded up as of March 20. Both the site of the exploded house and its neighbors to the immediate north and south were fenced off, and they were expected to remain that way until debris is cleared.

“On Tuesday and Wednesday, all the lawyers involved in possible lawsuits were there with investigators, taking pictures,” Dodd said.

Stuart Sklar, an attorney representing Malczynski’s family, said on March 22 that he was still awaiting more information before the family decided on what legal action to pursue.

Although the investigation is nearing its end, representatives  of Consumers Energy encourage residents who smell a “rotten egg” odorant to immediately call them from a safe location at (800) 477-5050 in order to avoid similar incidents in the future.

“The safety of our communities, customers and employees remains Consumers Energy’s top priority, and our thoughts continue to be with the deceased victim’s family and friends,” according to the Consumers Energy release. “We are fully cooperating with the Michigan Public Service Commission, the National Transportation Safety Board and local authorities, and will provide more details on our findings following the conclusion of the investigation.”

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Chris Jackett at cjackett@candgnews.com or at (586)279-1110.