Pipeline blast victim upgraded from 'critical' to 'fair' condition

  • Marie Cusick

First responders work the scene during a natural gas explosion in Westmoreland County. The explosion, which burned 26-year-old James Baker, caused flames to shoot above nearby treetops in the largely rural Salem Township, about 30 miles east of Pittsburgh.

Kerry Jobe via AP

First responders work the scene during a natural gas explosion in Westmoreland County Friday morning. The explosion, which burned 26-year-old James Baker, caused flames to shoot above nearby treetops in the largely rural Salem Township, about 30 miles east of Pittsburgh.


A 26-year-old man who was badly burned in a natural gas pipeline explosion last week has been upgraded from critical to fair condition at UPMC Mercy Hospital in Pittsburgh, according to a hospital spokeswoman.
James Baker was in his Westmoreland County home when a 30-inch interstate natural gas pipeline exploded around 8:30am Friday. His house was destroyed by the blast and about a dozen other homes in the area were evacuated. A GoFundMe page set up for Baker and his wife had already received close to $4,000 by Monday morning.
The cause of the explosion is still unknown. The federal Pipeline and Hazardous Material Safety Administration (PHMSA) is leading the investigation. Spokespeople for the agency did not immediately respond to requests for updated information Monday morning.
Six of the nine families who were displaced were allowed to return to their homes Sunday afternoon, according to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Three homes were so badly damaged the residents could not return.
The pipeline is owned by Houston, Texas-based Spectra Energy. It carries natural gas more than 9,000 miles from the Gulf Coast to the Northeast and is one of the nation’s largest pipelines. The blast disrupted supplies and sent natural gas futures up 5.6 percent on the New York Mercantile Exchange Friday, according to Bloomberg.
“We are deeply sorry for the effect this incident has had on the community,” Spectra said in a statement over the weekend. “We are committed to taking care of all of those involved.”
 

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