Man Dies From PG&E’s Fresno Explosion

FRESNO, Calif. (CN) – A man who was injured in a PG&E pipeline explosion at the Fresno County Sheriff’s Foundation gun range died on Monday.
     Jeremiah Espino, 52, of Sanger, was severely injured in the April 17 blast and died at the hospital, according to the sheriff’s office.
     Espino, who was serving a sentence for domestic violence, was one of 11 people hospitalized, including seven other inmates who were also doing cleanup work at the range, two deputies, and a county employee who was driving a front loader near the natural gas line.
     PG&E issued a statement expressing condolences to Espino’s family and others injured in the blast.
     Two inmates and the county equipment operator remain hospitalized, the sheriff’s office said. It made no further comment on the matter due to the investigation and pending litigation.
     The first lawsuit against Pacific Gas & Electric was filed less than a week after the blast, by attorney Butch Wagner on behalf of injured inmate Sam Ouk.
     Wagner has since been retained by four of the other inmates who were burned in the explosion. Attorney Warren Paboojian is representing one inmate who was injured.
     A Fresno County judge last week refused the attorneys’ request for a restraining order against PG&E and the California Public Utilities Commission, to prohibit the pipeline from being further damaged or destroyed during testing.
     The attorneys also asked the judge to allow their experts to be present during the testing and for the testing to be videotaped.
     PG&E fought the motion, stating in court documents that the company “takes very seriously its obligation not to harm or tamper with evidence.”
     “All parties want to ensure the integrity, objectivity and transparency of the investigation, and none more than PG&E, is endeavoring to ensure that happens,” PG&E said.
     Attorneys for the CPUC said in their own legal brief that the court did not have jurisdiction “in any way with the accident investigation” and that delaying it would be more likely to cause the evidence to be spoiled.
     Judge Mark Snauffer on May 7 agreed that a restraining order was beyond the jurisdiction of a superior court judge.
     Consulting firm Exponent Inc. was selected by CPUC to carry out the technical testing and examination of the pipe, which began Monday.
     The explosion of the Fresno pipeline came just 8 days after the CPUC fined PG&E $1.6 billion for the September 2010 pipeline explosion in San Bruno that killed 8 people and leveled a neighborhood.

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