Report of fatal pipeline accident expected
By Dustin Bleizeffer

The Star - Tribune
4 June 2003

GILLETTE -- The investigation into a pipeline explosion that killed a Gillette woman and injured a Wright woman is expected to be completed next week.

Wyoming Worker Safety compliance supervisor Johnnie Hall said he cannot indicate whether any citations will be issued or discuss details of the investigation until the report is complete.

"The report is being passed around for signatures right now," Hall said in a phone interview on Wednesday.

Debra Lee Zeleny, 41, of Gillette, was killed in an explosion April 6 when she and co-worker Marsha Iriberry were checking on a natural gas gathering line that was under maintenance in northern Converse County, according to Converse County Sheriff's Office and Worker Safety reports.

There was no fire involved in the explosion, but it appeared to be a pressure explosion that ripped a piece of valving out of the ground, the sheriff's report said.

Iriberry suffered severe injuries and was taken to Campbell County Memorial Hospital. She has since been released.

Both women were working for Merit Energy at the time of the accident.

At the time of the accident, investigators believed the women were with a crew attempting to clean out the pipeline with a "pig" -- a sphere-shaped device sent down pipelines to clean out unwanted material. Reports indicate that a second pig was sent down the pipeline in an attempt to free up the first pig.

The pipeline crew was working from two different pressure stations and reportedly sent the two women to open a valve somewhere between. When the women didn't respond to radio calls, someone was sent to look for them and discovered the accident.

Safety related to intrastate pipelines -- pipelines that do not cross state borders -- is under the authority of the Wyoming Office of Pipeline Safety, a division of the Wyoming Public Service Commission.

Wyoming Workers Safety became involved in the investigation because it enforces federal Office of Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) rules in the state. The agency gets involved in accidents when an employee is killed or a specific number of employees are hurt in a single accident.

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