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Companies deflecting blame over Sun Prairie explosion

A large swath of downtown Sun Prairie remains closed Wednesday morning, July 11, 2018 in the wake of a gas leak explosion Tuesday evening that leveled a downtown Sun Prairie bar, caused a massive fire at a pizza restaurant, killed a firefighter and and injured more than a dozen other people. Firefighters remained on the scene. (Steve Apps/Wisconsin State Journal via AP)

A large swath of downtown Sun Prairie remains closed Wednesday in the wake of a gas leak explosion Tuesday evening that leveled a downtown Sun Prairie bar, caused a massive fire at a pizza restaurant, killed a firefighter and injured more than a dozen other people. (Steve Apps/Wisconsin State Journal via AP)

Without naming the subcontractor that was working on site when a deadly explosion destroyed part of a block in downtown Sun Prairie, companies were deflecting blame from themselves on Wednesday.

The Kansas-based fiber-optics company Bear Communications confirmed it had a subcontractor working near the downtown block that was severely damaged on Tuesday but stopped short of naming the company. Bear Communications had been hired by Verizon Wireless to install a fiber-optics cable.

Around 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, a 4-inch natural-gas line was severed, leading to an explosion that damaged at least five buildings, killed a firefighter and injured more than a dozen other people. In a pair of statements on Thursday, Verizon and Bear stopped short of naming the subcontractor that had been working on site when the explosion occurred.

“A subcontractor of Bear Communications was performing work on site before the explosion, but there are many questions that remain to be answered as the investigation continues,” according to a statement from Bear Communications. “We are fully cooperating with investigators so they can develop a comprehensive overview of what happened and why. Since this is an ongoing investigation, it would be inappropriate to comment any further.

Sun Prairie officials also have not released any information about the contractor involved in the explosion. Sun Prairie Police, the Sun Prairie Fire Department and officials from the city’s planning and public-works departments did not respond to messages seeking information about the subcontractor’s duties at the site.

In a statement, a Verizon spokesman said the company has not been spoken to authorities investigating the explosion.

“No Verizon employees were present at the job site. Verizon does contract with local providers in various markets to provide fiber backhaul for our networks,” said Steve Van Dinter, a Verizon spokesman. “While we have not been contacted about the investigation, both we and Bear are prepared to work with law enforcement, public safety and public officials as they investigate this tragic situation.”

About Nate Beck, nbeck@dailyreporter.com

Nate Beck is The Daily Reporter's construction staff writer. He can be reached at (414) 225-1814 (office) or 414-388-5635 (mobile).

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