Eagan contractor remains focus of NTSB explosion investigation

   Federal investigators are questioning the fatigue level of Eagan contractors installing a gas meter at the site of a deadly explosion at Minnehaha Academy Aug. 2, according to statements made during a media conference Friday.
   The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is investigating the circumstances surrounding the explosion at the school, including the actions taken by Eagan contractors Master Mechanical, of Gemini Drive.
   The blast destroyed a central section of the private Christian school and jolted the surrounding neighborhood. Two school employees were killed and nine people were injured, one critically.
   Master Mechanical, a contractor for Center Point Energy, was at the school moving a gas meter on the morning of the blast, according to investigators.
   “The gas company wants meters to be on the outside of the building so they can read them,” said NTSB spokesman Christopher Hart. “The meter was inside the building.”
   At a media conference, Hart, an experienced Washington, D.C., attorney and federal administrator, described some of the information investigators are seeking.
   “They want to know about the condition of pipes and valves in the building,” Hart said. “They want to know about the fatigue of the two workers involved, the father and son involved.”
   Hart has spent nearly 30 years at the NTSB and other federal agencies. He has a law degree from Harvard University and bachelor’s and master’s degrees in aerospace engineering from Princeton University, according to his biography.      
   While the NTSB is known for investigating airline and railroad crashes, it also has jurisdiction in cases involving gas pipelines. The federal agency, featured prominently in the movie Sully, has investigated recent cases of gas explosions in buildings. The investigation could take up to a year.
   A spokesman for Master Mechanical told media Wednesday the company had employees at the school and that the company was working with fire investigators. Since then, the company has remained silent about its role and did not respond to a request for comment Thursday.
   Master Mechanical was issued a permit for mechanical work at the school on June 7, according to Minneapolis city records. The scope of work was for gas piping and hooking up meters, according to the permit.
   Hennepin County Emergency Management confirmed Wednesday the cause of the explosion was “natural gas from contracted construction being done on the building. A Minneapolis fire official said Wednesday that contractors were working on a boiler at the school at the time of the explosion.
   The Eagan company is not inexperienced and is named on a number of mechanical permits issued in the cities of Eagan and Apple Valley. A search of the cities’ permits databases shows 107 mechanical permits issued to Master Mechanical in Eagan since 1999. The company is named on 32 permits issued by Apple Valley since 2000.