The Michigan contractor that struck a gas main and caused a massive explosion in downtown Sun Prairie, Wisconsin, July 10 was not licensed to work in Wisconsin, state records show, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
Kansas-based Bear Communications hired VC Tech Inc. of Michigan to install fiber optic cable lines under Sun Prairie, a Madison suburb of about 30,000 people. According to the Journial Sentinel, VC Tech was installing the cable using a drilling process called directional boring, which sets the lines underground without having to dig trenches, when workers struck the four-inch gas pipe.
“We were doing construction work and we hit a gas line,” a worker on the job said to a 911 dispatcher after the gas line was hit. “You can hear it and smell it. it’s bad.”
VC Tech is owned by Valentin Cociuba of Ypsilanti, Michigan, but the company is not registered with the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions to do business in the state. Whether or not the work being performed in Sun Prairie required such a license isn’t clear, the Journal Sentinel reports.
Verizon Wireless hired Bear Communications to install the cable. Bear Communications subcontracted VC Tech.
Any company or individual that digs underground is required by law to call a state hotline to notify utility owners of digging plans so that they can mark the location of buried lines. However according to the Journal Sentinel, police and utility officials “have repeatedly refused to say whether the natural gas line’s location was identified for workers before drilling began.”
The resulting explosion leveled a block of downtown Sun Prairie, destroying seven businesses and killing firefighter Cory Barr. Mr. Barr was owner of The Barr House, a tavern that was one of the seven businesses destroyed by the blast.
Police said it’s uncertain whether any criminal charges will be filed at this time.
“We want to make sure we have all of the necessary facts in order to make a very informed decision if criminal charges will be filed,” Sun Prairie Police Lt. Kevin Konopacki said, according to the Journal Sentinel.