NTSB: Fiber optic drilling led to 2016 explosion, killing 1

Drilling to install a fiber optic conduit likely caused a gas explosion that killed one person and injuring 11 more in a central Illinois community, federal investigators said Monday.

The National Transportation Safety Board issued a draft report saying the drilling by Sure Shot Communications LLC pierced a 1-inch natural gas line, causing the Nov. 16, 2016, explosion in Canton, 150 miles (240 kilometers) southwest of Chicago.

The explosion occurred while utility workers were trying to fix the gas leak . The blast killed one Ameren Illinois employee, 38-year-old Arturo Silva Jr. of Mapleton, and injured two others.

The report says Sure Shot's decision not to excavate at the site to visually inspect the work, as required by Illinois law, contributed to the gas line damage.

The explosion at the Opera House Professional Center occurred about 30 minutes after Ameren Illinois workers arrived at the site following a report that Sure Shot had damaged the gas line.

"The crew squeezed off the gas and was in the process of making repairs when the explosion occurred," Ameren Illinois said in a statement at the time.

More than 50 buildings were damaged, including three that were condemned, authorities said.

An Illinois phone number for Sure Shot could not be located.