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South Jackson Residents Demand Transparency After Gas Leaks

JACKSON, MISS.—Months after 82-year-old Clara Barbour died in a home explosion on Bristol Boulevard the morning of Jan. 24, 2024, South Jackson residents are still concerned about the safety of the natural-gas pipelines in their neighborhoods. They expressed their worries to National Transportation Safety Board Chair Jennifer Homendy at a town hall at Greater Mt. Olive Baptist Church on April 24.

U.S. House Rep. Bennie Thompson, a Democrat whose district includes the Mississippi Delta and most of Jackson, hosted the event to allow residents to question officials directly about the NTSB’s ongoing investigation, the proper protocol for reporting a suspected gas leak and how the agencies communicate to handle a report.

Representatives from the NTSB, the Mississippi Public Service Commission, the Mississippi Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration and Atmos Energy were in attendance.

‘Our Entire Investigation Is About Saving Lives’

Although the NTSB, a federal agency headquartered in Washington, D.C., is commonly known for in-depth inquiries and safety recommendations after airline and rail accidents, natural-gas pipeline safety also falls under its jurisdiction.

82-year-old Clara Barbour (left) was killed and her husband Johnny Barbour was injured when their home on Bristol Boulevard in Jackson, Miss., exploded suddenly on the morning of Jan. 24, 2024. The National Transportation Safety Board is still investigating what caused the explosion. Photo courtesy Clara and Johnny Barbour

Chair Jennifer Homendy and two investigators went over the agency’s Feb. 14, 2024, preliminary report, which documented what the agency found in the first 30 days of their investigation after the deadly South Jackson home explosion, which not only killed Clara Barbour, but injured her husband, Johnny Barbour.

“Our entire investigation is focused on one thing and that’s saving lives,” Homendy said on April 24. “Our sole mission is to prevent a tragedy from recurring. We investigate with that goal in mind. What happened? How did it happen and how do we prevent it from recurring?”

The initial report included information from Atmos Energy about two “non-hazardous” gas leaks the utility company found in the area near the explosions in November and December 2023. Neither

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