An odd smell pushed one resident living in northeast Nebraska, about eight
miles north of Tekamah, to call the Burt County Sheriff's Office on
Monday, October 17. Two hours later, 59-year-old Phillip Hennig was found
dead, and authorities believe the smell was directly linked to his death.
Officials believe that Henning’s death and the smell were caused
by a leaking ammonia pipeline in the area. Fire officials rushed to the
site once the leak was confirmed, and according to a written statement
from Burt County Sheriff Robert Pickell, approximately 40 residents living
in 23 homes were evacuated. A stretch of highway in the area was also
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), anhydrous
ammonia – the type of ammonia reportedly being transported along
the pipeline – is used as a fertilizer, but can cause suffocation
to people trapped in its cloud. When released into the air, the vapors
hang low to the ground which dramatically increases the risk for anyone
in the surrounding area.
The pipeline is owned and operated by Magellan Midstream Partners. According
to Bruce Heine, the Director of Government and Media Affairs at the company,
the incident is currently being investigated by the National Transportation
Safety Board (NTSB). A spokesman for the NTSB confirmed the agency’s
investigation, but could not give more information at the time.
According to Magellan Midstream Partners, 50 employees were on site with
state and local emergency responders and federal regulators investigating
the leak, and had shut down the section of the pipeline where the leak
reportedly occurred. The company released a statement about the work being
done to combat the leak:
“Progress is being made on repairs at the release site and air quality
readings continue to improve. It is our goal to completely isolate the
failed portion of the pipeline (Wednesday), which will allow the reopening
of local roadways.”
Local news outlet KPTM also reported that Magellan Midstream Partners will
pay for the evacuated families’ expenses.
The Domina Law Group has decades of experience handling all kinds of pipeline
cases, including successfully
halting the construction of the TransCanada Keystone XL Pipeline after years of litigation. If you are interested in contacting one of
our attorneys, give us a call at (888) 387-4134 or
fill out our online form to give us more information about your case.