Residents shocked, confused after appearance of huge fireball in sky from pipeline eruption

Published 10:49 am Thursday, August 8, 2019

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By Bobbie Curd and Robin Hart

Laura Kirkpatrick, a Lincoln native, was in town visiting her family, but wasn’t at her mom’s house when the explosion happened. She panicked as soon as she heard, due to how close her mom and stepdad, Jodi and Denver Coulter, live to where the suspected gas line exploded.

“They can’t remember exactly how they woke up, but my stepdad is a former Marine and he seriously thought we were under attack,” Kirkpatrick said. “The sky was white, like a nuclear bomb had hit.”

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By the time she was able to reach them, she said “they were in shock. They were just sitting there, bewildered, like ‘how did this happen, and what was it.’”

Her mother was taken to the ER for burns on the back of her arms, but has since been discharged. Kirkpatrick said her mom and stepdad told her they didn’t think they were going to make it out alive.

“They saw everything melting in front of them. Denver’s body physically hurts from how fast and vigorous they had to run out of there, and he also had burns on his head, but I don’t think he realized it.”

Both of their vehicles were burned in the blast, as well. Kirkpatrick showed an aerial picture posted by a Lexington news station, with her mom and stepdad’s former house location circled, which is nothing but a pile of gray rubble.

“They lost everything. Their home, even their vehicles from the front yard,” Kirkpatrick said. “But, they’re alive. One person didn’t make it out alive.”

Bobbie Kitchen, a Boyle County resident, was at her boyfriend’s house on Jeffries Lane, just off of U.S. 127 and not too far from the site of the explosion. She said people in the area were outside, looking at the massive flame bursts, which could be seen for miles.

She witnessed the scene around 1:24 a.m., just minutes after when officials say the explosion occurred.

“I didn’t hear the explosion, we just thought it was a huge fire,” Kitchen said. “It was gigantic, and was like a bubbling noise, and it totally lit up the sky.”

Kitchen had to take a detour, like many other morning travelers, to get to her early-morning bakery job in Danville due to the end of Jeffries Lane being shut down.

Matt Wood, who also resides on Jeffries Lane with his family, said he wasn’t awoken by the explosion but his wife was. “Then people began calling me about my parents, they live in that neighborhood. They’re fine — the house has a significant amount of damage, but it’s still standing.”

Wood flew his drone over the area once the fire was put out and took pictures of the devastation. He said his brother and niece, who were at his parents, were treated in the ER for smoke inhalation, but both are fine.

John and Lou Dean are residents of the Indian Camp subdivision who were evacuated to the “emergency reception center” at New Hope Baptist Church early Thursday morning.

Later in the morning, the couple stood outside of the church, waiting to find out if their home was still standing.

Lou Dean said she and her husband were awoken by a thunderous roar that shook their home. “We thought it was a tornado coming through,” she said. Pictures were falling off the walls because of the vibrations, and behind their home was as bright as daylight and looking out the front it was pitch black, she said.

She said they crouched down in their living room waiting for what they thought was the tornado to pass by, when her nephew, who is a first responder, burst through their back door yelling for them to get out and leave the area.

Dean said they were just waiting to go home and see what damage had been caused. As they were fleeing, Dean said she saw the siding melting off of their home.

She described the neighborhood as being “close.”

“Everybody kind of looks out for everybody,” she said.

Laura Lorick, of Liberty, was with her family and friends setting up their tents and tables for the 127 Yard Sale when the explosion occurred. She said they had just left a gas station up the road and, “We thought it was the gas station that had blown up.”

Lorick said the fire, which was about a mile away, “… lit up the sky. We didn’t need no lights or nothing to set our tents.”

From a field off of Griffitts Lane, adjacent to the explosion site, Jason Griffitts said he and his wife were lucky their home didn’t burn too. He said he had planned on cutting hay in that field on Wednesday, but didn’t. If it had been cut, Griffitts said the fire would probably have quickly spread across the mowed area, instead it was slowed by the tall grass that still had some moisture in it.