Wednesday, June 10, 2009

june 10th, 1999

Do you remember what you were doing a little after 5:00 on June 10th, 1999?

In Bellingham on this day in 1999 237,000 gallons of gasoline that had been silently leaking into Whatcom Creek from a ruptured underground pipeline were ignited by two 10 year old boys that were playing with a lighter by the creek.

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The fumes had gotten strong and authorities had started evacuating the creek and surrounding park area by the time the explosion occurred.

But it was not enough. 3 people died, including those 2 boys (Wake King and Stephen Tsiorvas) as well as 18 year old Liam Wood who was fishing in the creek at that horrible moment.

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I was on my way home after a dentist appointment. I do not recall hearing the boom, but the cloud in the sky was massive and scary. I realized it was over in the area of my work, so I actually started to drive towards the chaos. I didn’t get far. Traffic was at a standstill as people rushed away from the scene and/or paused to take it all in.

The explosion happened across the street from my place of employment. I heard many tales of how scary it was to feel such a boom, and be surrounded by so much smoke.

In the time following the explosion the smoke would clear, and most of us resumed our normal lives as we watched the area along the creek slowly come back to life.

The Olympic Pipeline Company and its owners would pay out 187 million dollars in fines and settlements, and for the first time ever pipeline company employees went to jail because of their unsafe practices.

10 years later, I don’t find myself thinking about this tragedy on a daily basis. But the beautiful park and creek as well as the newly opened Wade King Elementary School serve as permanent reminders of this devastating day.

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17 comments:

Yaya said...

Oh wow, this is so sad.

Lucy said...

I had never heard this story. How sad and scary!

Dorkys Ramos said...

Wow, I'd never heard of this story either. It's so tragic how a company's carelessness led to this.

Three Js said...

Nicely written, Teri. I remember talking to you via cell phone not too long after--when you were stuck in traffic. A tragedy that should never have happened. Hopefully lessons were learned so that this never happens again.

Paging Doctor Mommy said...

I wasn't living up here at the time, so I had never heard this. That is awful!

Megan said...

I remember it happening but I didn't remember the date or year. I was working in Seattle so Bellingham was "far away" from where I was so it didn't exactly register. I bet being so close, it's hard to ever forget the day. It is so sad. I can't believe it's been 10 years!

Dee said...

oh that breaks my heart!

Roxy said...

CRAZY...at least the company was held accountable...what a tragedy!

Ally said...

I've never heard this story, thanks for sharing.

Oh and on June 10, 1999 I was 12 yrs old visiting my late Dad at the funeral home.

Brittany and Charlie said...

Crazy, I have never heard that either. I have no idea what I was doing but I was only 14 so prob just enjoying the summer.

Julie said...

Wow...that's SO sad...and scary.

Executive Momma said...

OMG - I never heard about the story, but that is scary!!!

The Blonde Duck said...

That is terrible. And a wonderful reminder not to trust companies!

Valerie said...

How sad that is. I had never heard about it before unless I just don't remember. I bet it was very frightening at the time!

wife.mom.nurse said...

Read the article, typing through tears...what a senseless tragedy.

My heart goes out to those parents...of all three.

Thanks for sharing.


p.s. say you mentioned by McMommy :)

pam said...

Thank you for sharing this tragic story, it should never be forgotten by your community.

Rachael said...

What a nice tribute. I remember that I was in London doing a study abroad thing through Whatcom CC when it happened, and didn't hear about it until I got back and one of the other kid's mothers brought it up when I said where I was from. It was so sad!