Disaster Story

It was a sunny day when Bob, an experienced excavator, planned to help a neighbor with an excavation. He had lived in the neighborhood for a long time and thought he knew where all the buried facilities were located. So, without calling for a stakeout, he parked his backhoe in the driveway several yards from the house and started to dig.

Soon after, he hit the gas pipe that fed the house. The pipe flexed and broke—not outside where he hit it, but inside the house. A mother and her two children were inside. The woman heard the hissing in the basement and immediately evacuated the house with her children. As her foot hit the front step, most of the two‑story house was blown into the back yard; she and her children were blown into the front yard. Large pieces of burning debris blew into neighbors’ homes 40 to 60 yards away.

Bob made it far enough away just before the explosion incinerated his backhoe. He received severe burns and lacerations over most of his body.

Fortunately, everyone at the site survived this disaster, but Bob’s story serves as an example of what can happen when an excavator does not request a stakeout.