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Explosion levels Fort Worth house; man critically hurt

FORT WORTH -- A 75-year-old man remained in critical condition at a Dallas hospital Monday after his house was leveled in an explosion that fire officials say was caused by a natural gas leak.

Authorities did not release the victim's name, but neighbors who helped him out of the damaged home identified him as Albert Long.

Long, who suffered severe burns and lung injuries, was taken by helicopter ambulance to Parkland Memorial Hospital.

The explosion was reported about 9:30 a.m. Sunday in the 3600 block of Chenault Street, east of downtown. Only Long was home, a fire official said.

Fire investigators said they didn't have any specifics of where the gas leak had occurred.

Atmos Energy spokeswoman Kelly Owen said Sunday that the company is investigating.

"It's too early in the investigation to say what exactly happened," Owen said.

Atmos was criticized by the Texas Railroad Commission this year for failing to maintain its equipment as required by law.

Through the years, the commission, which regulates the state's oil and gas industry, has ordered Atmos to remove and replace old, potentially hazardous gas-line fittings.

The commission's directive has covered a type of compression coupling that has failed in the past and been linked to several natural gas explosions.

In Sunday's incident, Barbara Hunt, 73, who lives next door to Long, said she was sitting in her living room when she heard a boom.

"I had no idea what had happened," she said. "I didn't have time to think. I just ran." She said she hadn't smelled natural gas before the explosion.

"People were outside trying to help him when I got outside," she said.

The explosion knocked a piece of siding from her home, Hunt said. Debris from Long's home was scattered all over the neighborhood, she said.

Fire investigators put the damage to Long's home at $30,000 to $40,000.

This report includes material from Star-Telegram archives.

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