Officials sentenced in pipeline blast
By Seattle Times staff and wire services

Seattle Times
18 June 2003

SEATTLE - A federal judge today sentenced three Olympic Pipe Line Co. officials in the 1999 pipeline explosion that killed three people in a Bellingham park, and approved $112 million in penalties and safety improvements from the company and its managing partner.

U.S. District Judge Barbara Rothstein sentenced Frank Hopf Jr., Olympic's manager at the time of the blast, to six months in prison as prosecutors had recommended, plus three years of supervised release and 200 hours of community service.

"I think this case has to be taken to heart," Rothstein said. "If this case is not taken to heart, then this tragedy is wasted."

She sentenced Ronald Brentson, the employee in charge of a computer control center for the pipeline, to 30 days in prison followed by 30 days home monitoring, three years supervised release and 150 hours of community service. Prosecutors had recommended a three-month sentence.

Kevin Dyvig, a control center operator responsible for monitoring the section of pipeline that ruptured, was sentenced to one year of probation as prosecutors had recommended, and 150 hours of community service.

Rothstein also accepted a proposed settlement calling for $112 millions in criminal and civil penalties and safety improvements by the two companies found liable in the blast - Olympic and its managing partner, Equilon Pipeline Co.

The recommendations, filed Friday, were part of a plea agreement that resolved the complicated case.

When the pipeline ruptured in Bellingham on June 10, 1999, it spilled more than 225,000 gallons of gasoline into creeks running through the park. Liam Wood, 18, who was fishing, died after being overcome by fumes. Stephen Tsiorvas and Wade King, both 10, died of burns suffered when the fuel ignited in a giant fireball.

A federal investigation of the pipeline rupture and explosion, and of Olympic's management of its 400-miles pipeline network in the region, led to a six-count indictment.

The charges ranged from failures in the company's general operations to violations of the federal Clean Water Act.

In December, Olympic and the three men - Hopf, Brentson and Dyvig - each pleaded guilty to the counts against them.

Equilon, which bought out Olympic's managing partner, Texaco Pipeline Inc., after the explosion and assumed its liabilities, pleaded no contest.

Copyright Seattle Times
(Original story no longer available online)