VALDOSTA -- An hour and a half after a gas line was accidentally busted by an unidentified company working in Drexel Park, things were back to normal for those on the Valdosta State University campus.

"Someone was doing some work in Drexel Park and dug into a gas line accidentally," said Valdosta Fire Department Chief John Wisenbaker. "It was a 4-inch gas line under heavy pressure. Everyone within 1,000 feet was evacuated."

Jeff Busby with Atlanta Gas Light Company said a thorough investigation would be conducted to determine exactly what happened and who was at fault. His findings should be released today.

About 2 p.m., everyone in Valdosta State University's fraternity houses along Brookwood Drive, between Patterson Street and Slater Street, was evacuated.

"Workers came over and said they wanted everyone out of the houses," said VSU senior Brian Pulley, resident of the Pi Kappa Phi house. "They said they had accidentally hit a gas line while digging. They blocked off Brookwood Drive and would not let anyone get in their cars to leave."

Residents of the Sigma Nu and Kappa Sigma houses were evacuated as well, along with faculty, staff and students in the northern section of the University Center.

Scott Doner, director of public safety at VSU, said there is always a possibility of danger when there is a gas leak. Not only are the fumes potentially hazardous, but the potential for fire is always a threat, Doner added.

About 45 minutes after the initial incident, low-hanging clouds moved in and the wind changed directions, causing the situation to worsen. The southern end of the University Center, the bookstore, the Speech and Language Pathology building, and the nursing building were all evacuated.

Doner, who was in constant radio contact with workers on the scene, said Atlanta Gas Light Company representatives were having difficulty capping off the leak. Apparently, the damage was near some roots deep underground, and workers had to dig around them by hand in order to clear the way for the cap.

Finally, at 3:30 p.m., just minutes before lightning began striking and the rain moved in, the leak was capped and everyone returned to their class, office, car, home, etc.

"It took us a lot longer to fix the leak than normal," said Busby, referring to the damage portion's location.

Wisenbaker said they do not know how much gas leaked into the air at this time.

"Atlanta Gas Light Company officials are going to conduct a thorough evaluation," he added.

To contact reporter Jessica Pope, please call 244-3400, ext. 255.

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