Remains discovered at Gypsum explosion site; Chatfield Corners residents allowed to return
Gas leak apparently caused by crew working to install fiber optic line
Investigators discovered human remains Friday at the site of a gas leak explosion in Gypsum at 50 Cottonwood Pass Road that rocked the Chatfield Corners neighborhood around midday Thursday.
The incident has been turned over to the Eagle County Coroner’s Office.
Once the cause of death and identity has been determined, the details will be released by the Eagle County Coroner’s Office. In a news release, the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office asked for the community to respect the family during this difficult time.
Some residents of Gypsum’s Chatfield Corners neighborhood were allowed to return home Friday afternoon. The Thursday explosion destroyed a home in the subdivision. More residents were allowed to return early Friday evening, but the subdivision still had no gas or electric service.
One person was in the home at the time of the explosion. The investigation into the explosion continued Friday afternoon and included local, state and federal agencies.
Residents had reported a gas leak at about 11 a.m., and the explosion happened at about 12:35 p.m. at the corner of Valley Road and Cottonwood Pass Road. Authorities say the explosion was caused by a gas leak. The leak was created by excavation work digging trenches for a fiber-optic project for Comcast.
Neighbors reported hearing a loud “whoom,” at the time, and the home burst into flames seconds later, rattling windows in the immediate area.
The evacuation order for the subdivision followed moments later. Crews from all over Eagle County and the region responded to the fire, from as far away as Aspen and Vail, containing the blaze to the single home.
Electric service was cut off to the subdivision, since gas might have leaked into the service vaults and conduit containing power lines. Holy Cross Energy Vice President of Operations Rich Arnhold said during a Friday update that the utility would keep power off until it’s determined there’s no natural gas in those vaults and conduit lines.
Evacuated residents were asked to go to the Gypsum Recreation Center. Due to the continuing danger, including gas-saturated soils around the line leak, the entire neighborhood was evacuated overnight. Some residents stayed with friends and family, others were put up at the Eagle Lodge Hotel.
Going in under escort
Residents were escorted into the subdivision to spend a few moments picking up clothing, medications and animals. Several animals were housed at the Eagle County Animal Shelter.
Working through the night and into Friday, crews from Black Hills Energy, the area’s natural gas provider, worked to evaluate how much gas was still in the soil and under streets.
Black Hills Energy Operations Supervisor Tom Warnes said Friday crews determined there was “zero gas saturation” in the ground. Crews evaluated the area by boring holes into the ground and streets and checking for gas. Warnes said crews were pressure testing sections of gas line and had determined there were no further leaks.
As the investigation continued, the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office issued this statement:
The Eagle County Sheriff’s Office would like to thank the community for their patience during this incident. We would also like to thank the town of Gypsum and all of its employees, Eagle River Fire Protection District, Greater Eagle Fire Protection District, Gypsum Fire Protection District, Avon Police Department, Vail Police Department, Eagle Police Department, Colorado State Patrol, Colorado Department of Transportation, ATF (Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms), Colorado Division of Fire Prevention and Control, Eagle County Road and Bridge, American Red Cross, Salvation Army, Vail Public Safety Communications Center, Citadel Security, and the Eagle County Schools.
Randy Wyrick contributed to this story. Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.