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Federal report blames PG&E for fatal explosion

SACRAMENTO -- Federal investigators concluded Pacific Gas and Electric Co.'s faulty work and delayed response to complaints of a gas leak led to the fatal 2008 home explosion in Rancho Cordova.

The National Transportation Safety Board released its final report on the explosion that killed Wilbert "Bill" Paana, 72, and sent his daughter Kimberly Dickson, 44, and granddaughter Sunny Dickson, 17, to a hospital with severe burns.

Much of the information in the NTSB's accident brief has come out in the 17 months since the explosion, but the report for the first time chronicles the sequence of events that led to the Christmas Eve tragedy.

The NTSB concluded that PG&E workers used a faulty piece of pipe during a 2006 repair job on a leak in Paana's front yard. That mistake led to the gas leak. The bad section of pipe pulled out of a coupling and allowed gas to leak underground and into Paana's home.

The NTSB found significant delays on the part of workers responding to neighbor complaints of a gas smell.

In December 2009, PG&E admitted fault for the explosion as a result of the bad repair job. PG&E has made a number of changes to its operations since the explosion, company spokesman Brian Swanson said.

All technicians are now trained and equipped with devices to test for outdoor gas leaks. The company also changed its policies for evacuating an area when a leak is suspected and for handling crew delays.

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