State investigating what led to gas leak

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) – A gas leak that caused the evacuation of a Richmond apartment complex is now under investigation. A construction crew working near Mosby Court hit a natural gas line just before noon Thursday. We've learned a state agency is trying to figure out what went wrong.

Outside the Fairhills Apartments on Coalter Street, the gas leak from a two inch pipe hissed like air escaping from a balloon. Inside Octavious McDaniel's apartment, a different sound made him fear for his life.

"The maintenance people knocked on the door like very, very hard, very loud," he explained.  "They said we need to get out. There's an emergency. There's a gas leak."

Firefighters and maintenance workers scrambled through fifteen buildings to warn more than a hundred people about the dangerous situation. We're told it started when a construction crew using a back hoe struck a natural gas line.

"It's not safe," McDaniel said. "It's not safe anytime you gotta wake up out your sleep and it's something about a gas leak that is very dangerous."

A spokesperson with Richmond's Department of Public Utilities said situations like this shouldn't happen.

Before contractors ever break ground they're supposed to call 811. Virginia Utility Protection Service will send someone out to put spray paint on the ground where any lines might be.

According to the state agency investigating the incident, the construction crew may have violated Virginia statutes. At this point though, it is working to figure out exactly what happened. Certain violations hold civil penalties as high as $2500. McDaniel thinks the risk is much higher.

"It's very scary," he told NBC12. "I mean, everybody's life is at risk. I'm glad that me and my son and the rest of my family is ok."

We are not sure just how long this investigation will take. Right now, there are fresh paint markings on the ground to guide crews away from any underground gas lines.

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