Sun Prairie community looks for answers: Who was the contractor that struck the gas main?

Police and fire officials unable to confirm
Sun Prairie community looks for answers: Who was the contractor that struck the gas main?
Courtesy downtown Sun Prairie resident

There are still many unanswered questions in the aftermath of the explosion in Sun Prairie.

Officials with WE Energies confirmed a third-party contractor struck a natural gas main, which later led to the explosion just after 7 p.m. Tuesday.

At a news conference Wednesday night, officials said they would not confirm who the contractor was or what construction project in which the contractor was involved.

“We’re not going to release any information as it relates to the contractor, the work they’re doing, who they were, whether we know them are not. We are in the beginning stages of a very very active and very involved investigation,” said Lt. Kevin Konopacki of the Sun Prairie Police Department.

Fire and police officials said it is now a death investigation, after Capt. Cory Barr was killed.

“Until we get to that point where we figure out exactly what’s going to happen, to protect the integrity of that investigation, we’re not going to release any information on that,” Konopacki said.

City officials said they are also looking for answers.

“Certainly, people are wondering how this happened,” said Sun Prairie City Council president Bill Connors. “There’s a lot of speculation as to which contractor for which entity would have been working in that area.”

Who was the contractor?

News 3 has reached out to several agencies that have done work in the area to try and find out who was involved.

Bear Communications has not responded to News 3’s request for comment.

Chicago-based Telephone and Data Systems said it was aware of the explosion in Sun Prairie.

TDS said in a statement Wednesday, “TDS Telecom confirms the contractor who ruptured the gas line in Sun Prairie was not hired by, nor doing work for TDS. This has been our assessment since the beginning of the incident, however we needed time to investigate the details and facts associated with this tragedy before we confirmed.”

TDS officials said their crews have been building a new fiber optic broadband network in Sun Prairie over the last 18 months, but their contractors were not associated with the explosion.

Jamie De Bruin, CFO of InterCon Construction, said the Waunakee-based company was not involved in the construction that struck the natural gas main.

“We responded to WE Energies’ request for assistance in the aftermath,” De Bruin told News 3.

Officials with the Wisconsin Department of Transportation confirmed it was not one of their construction projects. Attempts to contact Sun Prairie city engineers were unsuccessful.

Why did it take so long to turn off the natural gas?

WE Energies said originally about 500 customers were without natural gas as a result of the explosion. But as of Wednesday evening, the company had restored power to about 275.

Questions also arose as to why it took so long for the company to turn off the natural gas after the explosion happened.

Spokesperson Cathy Schulze said the “safety and intensity of the fire” made it difficult for crews to turn off the gas. They had to look for a vantage point to safely access the leak, she said.

Schulze said a majority of the natural gas was shut off by 9:30 p.m. Tuesday, but crews discovered after that some was still flowing. Crews stopped all of the natural gas in the area by 12:20 a.m.

WE Energies crew members will be going door-to-door in the coming days to restore power to more customers.