Updated Friday, Sept. 10 at 5:57 p.m.
Some residents of the neighborhood at the epicenter of the PG&E gas main explosion in San Bruno last night now say that the utility had a crew doing work there for several days before the devastating blast.
Shane Musunu and his mother, Gayle Musunu, live at the corner of Glenview and Claremont streets where the explosion occurred. Both say that PG&E workers were at that site for three or four days earlier this week. Residents complained to the work crew about smelling gas, the Musunus said, and they were told to close their garage doors to avoid smelling the gas odor.
Gayle Musunu said she rescued her elderly mother from their house of 40 years, leading her out of the burning building. Both sustained burn injuries, and her mother is in San Francisco General Hospital on life support, according to Musunu. Gayle was treated and released for facial burns. They are staying with a friend in a house outside the affected area, which has been closed off by fire officials.
Residents of the San Bruno neighborhood devastated by Thursday’s explosion said PG&E investigated a pungent gas leak over the previous week but did not take action.
“They already knew about the leak and they didn’t do anything,” said Alex Monroy, who lives on Claremont Drive, not far from where a broken gas main burst into flames early Thursday evening, scorching everything around it.
PG&E has confirmed that one of its high-pressure natural gas transmission lines ruptured, causing the blaze that destroyed 38 homes, damaged 120 and killed at least three people. The explosion happened shortly after 6 p.m. on Thursday and left a 15-foot-deep crater in the pavement. A massive fireball raged for more than an hour, radiating heat that could be felt through closed car doors blocks away.
According to residents, the tragic disaster may have been preventable.
San Mateo Assemblyman Jerry Hill said he was "outraged" to learn that some residents had complained to PG&E about gas leaks in the neighborhood "for up to three weeks" before the explosion.
Hill said the pipe that ruptured was installed in 1948.
"I will be working closely with the Public Utilities Commission to ensure that a thorough investigation is conducted into the cause of this fire," Hill said in a statement.
California Public Utilities Commission spokesman Andrew Kotch told The Bay Citizen that investigators will be examining whether a leak occurred in the days leading up to the blast.
"Obviously if there were leaks that is troubling, we will be looking into that as part of the investigation," Kotch said.
Kotch said penalties, fines and restitution for the victims are among the possible outcomes of that investigation, but said it was too early to tell if it could evolve into a criminal investigation.
Tim Gutierrez, another resident, told CBS 5 that he smelled a gas-like odor for several days before the accident. He said representatives of PG&E searched the neighborhood looking for a leak.
“A little later they took off and that was it,” said Gutierrez.
He said shortly afterwards, he believed that he smelled the same odor emanating from a sewer.
When asked his reaction to the blast, Gutierrez angrily replied: “What the hell PG&E is thinking, not correcting the problem.”