911 calls detail panic, confusion after pipeline explosion

Published 10:01 pm Friday, August 30, 2019

“Can you tell me what the hell’s going on on 127?” a man asked a 911 dispatcher in the early morning hours of Aug. 1.

The panic was evident in the voice of another man who called as he exclaimed, “I don’t know … It’s huge! Send somebody down here!”

Those two men were among the hundreds of callers filling up all lines at the Bluegrass 911 dispatch center after the gas pipeline explosion in the Indian Camp Subdivision in Moreland. The explosion of the Enbridge Texas Eastern Transmission gas line killed one person, injured six others and destroyed or damaged surrounding properties over a 30+ acre area.

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Recordings of the frightening moments the morning the gas line exploded were obtained from 911. Scores of callers reported an explosion and flames lighting up the night skies — and some were just calling 911 to ask what happened.

“Yes ma’am. Something’s exploded over on 2141,” said one man. “Flames are shooting way up in the sky. It shook my whole house, ma’am.”

Multiple callers echoed that man’s call, reporting they also were “shook” by the explosion.

“It like shook our whole house and we’re miles away from it,” one man said.

“I don’t know what’s going on,” said a woman calling from VonLinger Lane.  “My whole sky is lit up. The sky is all lit up and my house just shook.”

But many of the first 911 calls following the explosion were simply to find out what caused the massive fire and glow in the sky.

“We’re hearing the explosion and all the fire and stuff,” said one man. “We’re living pretty close to it and don’t know if we need to evacuate or what? Do you know what it is?”

Some of the confusion heard in the panicked calls was also felt on the 911 side as dispatchers tried to pinpoint the cause of the apparent explosion and fire while answering calls.

“We have no clue,” a dispatcher said when asked what was happening by a caller. “We’ve had a person call and say it’s a plane crash. We’ve had a person call and say it’s a house that’s exploded. And then somebody else called and said it was a train. So we’re not sure ”

Amidst the confusion, dispatchers continued their job of helping and advising callers.

“I can see the flames shooting up and it scares me,” said one caller, while another said, “I’m worried. I can’t even step outside. It’s too hot.”

When an obviously terrified woman called in about her brother, dispatch did its best to try and settle her fears.

“I’m sure he’s fine. He’s not called in here. We’ve gotten calls from over there and everybody seems okay,” the dispatcher said.

Many calls fielded by 911 dealt with the question of needing to evacuate or not.

“We live down by the dollar store (Moreland). Are we safe or do we need to evacuate?” asked one woman.  “I just need to know if I need to evacuate,” another woman said.

Dispatch advised many callers to “shelter in place” but also told others that, “You can leave if you want. If that’s what makes you feel safe. But they are evacuating people right now.”

The 911 calls kept coming for several hours after the explosion and not only from Lincoln County. Calls came into the dispatch centers from surrounding counties, some as far away as Nelson County.

“I’m on 150 East headed back towards Bardstown, Kentucky, and the whole sky is lit up,” said one caller.

One woman, after seeing the massive glow in the sky, questioned whether America was under attack.

“Yes ma’am, is there anything going on in Lincoln County that is a danger to our country?” she asked.

Now four weeks later, the site of the deadly pipeline explosion is still off-limits to the public. Only residents and responder agencies are allowed in the area and there is still a heavy police presence.

The cause of the blast remains under investigation.