Federal agency meets to determine what killed a 12-year-old Dallas girl in a natural gas explosion

UPDATE AT 9:22 am: This is an evolving story that will be updated as the day progresses.

A federal agency is meeting Tuesday morning to investigate the cause of a 2018 natural gas explosion that killed a 12-year-old girl in her home in northwest Dallas.

“The reason we are here today is to learn from this tragic accident and to make safety recommendations to prevent these things from happening again,” said Robert L. Sumwalt, chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board.

Linda “Michellita” Rogers was preparing for school in February 2018 when her home on Espanola Drive exploded. Rogers died and four family members were injured. In the days before, two other people in the same block were injured by fires caused by leaking gas.

Linda Michelle Rogers

The NTSB has no supervisory or enforcement powers. Its main role is to make safety recommendations, which are expected to be made on Tuesday. It would be up to other federal, state, or local authorities to determine whether or not to accept the Board’s proposals.

In the days leading up to the accident, there was unusually heavy rainfall in the Dallas area, a factor that NTSB records said Atmos crews said made it difficult to find and repair leaks.

After the third house explosion, Atmos and Dallas Fire Rescue ordered the evacuation of a two-block area. It was later expanded to include 300 single-family homes, 250 residential units and an elementary school, NTSB officials said.

Sumwalt said the NTSB would address responses from Atmos and Dallas Fire Rescue on Tuesday.

During the meeting on Tuesday, NTSB staff investigators said Atmos’ investigation into the accidents in the first two houses with gas leaks was “inadequate”. They found that Atmos did not immediately report these two incidents, delaying a timely response from state and federal regulators.

According to NTSB officials, Dallas Fire Rescue did not have a formal policy to report unusual circumstances such as the first two house fires before the fatal explosion that killed Rogers.

The NTSB is an independent federal agency that investigates plane crashes and major accidents involving pipelines, highways, ships and railways.

The agency’s meeting is online here.

The fatal explosion led to an investigation by the Dallas Morning News which found that since 2006, more than two dozen homes in north and central Texas have been blown up due to natural gas leaks along the Atmos Line. Nine people died and more than 20 others were seriously injured.

The news also reported that Atmos Energy owned some of the oldest natural gas pipelines in the country, making them prone to corrosion and cracking.

The Rogers family filed a $ 1 million lawsuit against Atmos in March 2018 alleging the company failed to fix dangerous leaks in its pipeline system. The family reached an agreement with Atmos on an undisclosed amount of money in May 2019.

Atmos has since extensively replaced and upgraded its pipeline system in northwest Dallas and elsewhere in the city.

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