Gas explosion, flames force Maryville neighborhood evacuation
A Worden man who suffered severe burns in a massive gas explosion in Maryville on April 6 has died.
Construction worker John Doug Behme, 44, died Friday morning at the burn unit of Mercy Hospital in St. Louis, hospital officials confirmed.
Funeral arrangements were pending at Dauderman Mortuary.
Behme was part of a crew with Keller Construction excavating at the site of the future Villas at Nottingham on April 6 when they hit a 10-inch gas line operated by Ameren Illinois and triggered a massive explosion. Behme was initially taken to Anderson Hospital, then flown to Mercy Hospital in St. Louis with third-degree burns.
Behme, whose survivors include a wife, a daughter and a son, enjoyed hunting, fishing, traveling and hiking with his family, according to obituary information. He also enjoyed restoring old cars with his son.
Visitation is 4 to 8 p.m. Sunday and 9 to 10 a.m. Monday at Trinity Lutheran Church in Worden. The funeral is 10 a.m. at the church. Burial will be in Trinity Lutheran Cemetery in Worden.
Memorial contributions can be made to his children’s college fund.
At the time of the explosion, Maryville Police Officer Justin Krausz observed Behme as a “dark shadowy figure coming out of the fire.” Krausz ran toward the fire and helped Behme get away from the scene. He said that Behme had smoke coming off him, but was not on fire.
Behme, who had burns on 70 percent of his body, was initially thought to be on the path to recovery; early reports said his lungs were not damaged, and first-responders said he was able to walk and talk, as well as climb into the ambulance under his own power.
Behme underwent surgery about a week ago, which led to calls for blood donations on his behalf by friends and family on social media.
The Occupational Health and Safety Administration continues to investigate the accident and has not yet reached a conclusion, according to investigator Aaron Priddy. “This tragedy continues to unfold in a way we had hoped it wouldn’t go,” Priddy said.
This tragedy continues to unfold in a way we had hoped it wouldn’t go.
Aaron Priddy, OSHA investigator
Priddy said Behme’s death does not necessarily change the nature of the investigation, though communication tends to be more extensive and formalized in a fatal accident rather than an injury accident. In either case, he said, OSHA tries to work closely with the families, making sure they’re aware of their rights and processes.
Keller Construction could not immediately be reached for comment.
“My understanding is that (Keller) has been very cooperative with our compliance officer,” Priddy said. “I’ve not had any indication that they’ve given us any resistance.” Priddy said the developers, first responders and law enforcement also have been very forthcoming with information about the explosion.
By law, OSHA has up to six months from the date of a workplace accident to determine whether there was negligence or safety regulations were violated.
The construction crew had a valid JULIE permit, the utility-locating service has said.