Car crash cuts off heat to 350 homes

Sunday, December 31, 2006 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 5:58 p.m. CDT, Monday, June 30, 2008

A man suspected of driving drunk early Friday morning crashed his car into a natural gas regulator, causing a significant leak that forced the evacuation of four homes and cut off heat to about 350 more. He then abandoned his car and broke into a nearby house where the resident was sleeping upstairs, according to the Boone County Sheriff’s Department.

Brent Hoggatt, 29, of Columbia, was arrested on suspicion of driving while intoxicated, first-degree burglary and second-degree property damage. He was released from the Boone County Jail after posting $11,000 bond, the Sheriff’s Department said.

After the crash, sheriff’s deputies and firefighters with the Boone County Fire Protection District responded to the gas leak, cordoned off the area and evacuated four households, fire district spokesman Gale Blomenkamp said.

Gas leaked for two hours from the regulator, which manages pressure and distributes natural gas to homes in north Columbia.

“While working with situations like this, we have to first ensure the safety of our customers and of our workers,” AmerenUE spokesman Tim Fox said. A crew of 20 AmerenUE employees had rebuilt the regulator and its surrounding pipes by 6 p.m. Crew members went door to door to relight pilots in the area. Natural gas service had been restored to most residents by midnight.

AmerenUE has not released information about the amount or value of the gas that escaped from the damaged regulator.

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