Pipeline explosion rocks Heflin community

Still image captured from streamed footage of the Shelby County Colonial pipeline explosion by CBS42 meteorologist Nate Harrington from a helicopter.
Still image captured from streamed footage of the Shelby County Colonial pipeline explosion by CBS42 meteorologist Nate Harrington from a helicopter.

HEFLIN, Ala. (WIAT) — The Cleburne County community in and around Heflin has been deeply affected by the pipeline explosion that rocked Shelby County Monday. The L. E. Bell Construction Company just outside of Heflin is the largest employer in the county. Their employees were on site in Shelby County when the explosion sent multiple workers to area hospitals.

One woman in Heflin said her husband was on the ground about a mile away from the site when the explosion happened. She asked that his name not be used. He wasn’t injured, but she said all the guys out there know each other well, and they’re all still trying to process the emotional and psychological effects of what they’ve been through.

Wednesday, the coroner identified the crew member killed in the explosion as Anthony Lee Willingham.

The Cleburne County Commission Chairman and Probate Judge Ryan Robertson said he also had a personal connection to the tragedy, and asked for prayers for everyone affected.

“I had several phone calls this morning concerning families. Everybody is just asking for prayers … It’s a dark cloud that’s over our county. We’re all concerned and worried about the folks who were hurt and the loss of life,” said Robertson.

Joyce Fuller, the Cleburne County Revenue Commissioner said she has a brother, brother-in-law and two nephews that work for the company. She said when she heard about the explosion she immediately started making phone calls, and it took a little while to get answers. None of her relatives were physically injured, but she said she’s praying for those dealing with the physical and psychological trauma of the incident.

“We’re just kind of holding our breath — bated breath really — waiting to hear from those that have been hurt … When you see something like that, it’s hard to un-see it, and so we just pray for their comfort, their peace and healing,” said Fuller.

Many of the people who spoke to CBS 42 spoke highly of Larry Bell and the L. E. Bell Construction Company. The company’s offices said all of their communication with the media will come through Colonial Pipeline.

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