O’FALLON, Mo. – FOX 2 has learned city officials in O’Fallon, Missouri, halted digging at a neighborhood fiber broadband installation site after yet another gas line strike earlier this week forced residents on Sunshine Drive to evacuate their homes.

There have been nearly 30 more digging incidents since July, according to a city official. They follow the March 1 gas line rupture that led to a home explosion. There have been no injuries reported.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the Missouri Public Service Commission have yet to issue reports from their investigations into the March 1 explosion, multiple city officials said. A subcontractor for high speed internet provider, Gateway Fiber, hit a gas line while installing new fiber broadband in that incident, they said.

Monday’s gas line rupture happened at another Gateway Giber site about three miles from the explosion site. Residents near the Sunshine Drive site said it was the third gas line strike in the neighborhood in the past six weeks.

“The guys (from the fiber broadband crew) came back and said they hit a gas line (and that) we better not use any tools, we might blow it up,” said Brandon Kerker, who is building a deck in the back yard of the home closest to the broadband dig site.

He alerted the home owner.

“When I told her she thought I was joking. She said, ‘What? Again?!’” Kerker said.

“I said, ‘What, you’re messing with me right?’” said homeowner Christine Mastroianni. “He said, ‘Nope, it’s for real.’ Then I could just hear the gushing (of natural gas) … the fumes were just terrible … it’s just scary.”

She and her neighbors had to evacuate for about 90 minutes and do so on foot because starting their cars could have sparked an explosion, she said.

The ordinance requires a report on what went wrong from a third-party safety monitor
before work can resume. Permits can be revoked for repeat violations.

The city also passed resolution about six weeks ago calling on the Missouri Attorney General’s Office to pursue civil penalties against violators to the full extent of state law.

“(With) gas lines being struck, this city’s not going to sit back and just wait for the next one,” Anthony Michalka, communications director for the City of O’Fallon, said. “The city council’s very proactive and looked at this as, ‘Is there anything else we can do to keep our residents safe?’”

The city reports 28 utility digging incidents since July 5 – about 1 per week. Fifteen of them were attributed to locations of buried utility lines being mis-marked, Michalka said.

Gateway Fiber’s Chief Marketing Officer, John Meyer, told FOX 2 that a third-party report will show a mis-marked gas line led to the latest incident.

All parties involved are due at O’Fallon City Hall on Monday, Michalka said.