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Bear Communications subcontractor working on project for Verizon before Sun Prairie gas explosion

Updated: 4:34 p.m. July 13, 2018

SUN PRAIRIE, Wis. (CBS 58) -- Bear Communications sent a statement Friday that said one of their subcontractors was working on the project. No one from Bear Communications was present on site when the gas line began leaking.

The statement says that work was being done by VC Tech, Inc. who was working in the area before the blast and when they smelled gas notified authorities are started evacuating people.

Here is the full statement:

“Bear Communications continues to cooperate fully with all parties involved in the investigation of the explosion that took place Tuesday in Sun Prairie. Bear Communications was building a fiber network in the Madison area. As is common on projects like this, Bear Communications subcontracted out certain scopes of work. The work in the Sun Prairie area was performed by VC Tech, Inc. VC Tech was working in the area prior to the blast, and when VC Tech’s employees smelled gas they notified authorities of the gas leak and assisted in evacuating people from the area before the explosion occurred.

No one from Bear Communications was present on site when the gas line began leaking. The vehicle in the photograph in the media is not owned by Bear Communications and was not operated by any employee of Bear Communications. In Sun Prairie, Bear Communications provides its subcontractors with magnetic signs with the Bear Communications logo for their vehicles.

Again, Bear Communications employees are cooperating fully with investigators. Further comments at this time would not be appropriate given the ongoing investigation.”

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Updated: 12:52 p.m. July 13

SUN PRAIRIE, Wis. (CBS 58) -- A contractor with Bear Communications was working on a project for Verizon before a gas line was hit causing an explosion in Sun Prairie on Tuesday. 

A Verizon spokesman released a statement saying in part,

"Tuesday evening's explosion in Sun Prairie is tragic. Verizon's employees join the community in mourning the loss of a firefighter's life, and we pray for the speedy and complete recovery of those harmed. Verizon contracted with Bear Communications for a fiber project for the Madison area, including Sun Prairie, to improve our wireless network. 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. 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. "

Bear Communications also released a statement Thursday:

"First and foremost, our condolences and prayers go out to the family of Sun Prairie volunteer fire department Capt. Cory Barr who lost his life in the explosion. Our prayers also go out to those injured in the accident. We share in the community’s shock and sadness over this accident.

A subcontractor of Bear Communications was performing work on site at the time of the accident, but there are many questions that remain to be answered as the investigation continues. 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."

A Sun Prairie firefighter, Cory Barr, was killed in the blast on Tuesday. Several others were injured. 

This is a developing story. Stay with CBS 58 on air and online for updates. 

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Updated: 10:00 a.m. July 12, 2018

UPDATE: SUN PRAIRIE, Wis. (CBS 58) -- A company responsible for installing fiber optic cables for broadband service says their workers did not cause the gas leak leading to the Sun Prairie explosion  

TDS Telecom issued the following updated statement Thursday morning  

"Today, TDS Telecom confirms the contractor who ruptured the gas line in Sun Prairie, Wis. was not hired by, nor doing work for TDS. This has been our assessment since the beginning of the incident, however we needed time to investigate the details and facts associated with this tragedy before we confirmed.

During the past 18 months, TDS has been building a new fiber optic broadband network in Sun Prairie; however, we have confirmed TDS contractors were not associated with this accident.

What happened in Sun Prairie Tuesday evening is devastating. Our hearts go out to the community at large, injured first responders, and especially to the family and friends who lost their loved one. We would like to thank the first responders, local government, Red Cross and other organizations for taking such great care of the citizens of Sun Prairie during this heartbreaking situation."


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Posted: 9:12 p.m. July 11, 2018

SUN PRAIRIE, Wis. (CBS 58) -- We Energies says a contractor struck a 4-inch gas main causing the leak and the utility company adds that it was not a We Energies employee that did it.

Witnesses say they saw workers installing fiber optic cables for broadband in the area shortly before the leak and the blast.

One woman, who felt the explosion and ran from her home, says she saw workers of some kind in hard hats, running from the scene.

She adds that the work on those cables had been going on for a while.

"It's been going on for a few months. They've been putting in fiber optics all over Sun Prairie. So I know it's been TDS workers. There was no other construction that I know of that was on Main Street in that area," said Tiffany Yapp who was evacuated after the blast.

TDS Telecom, the company responsible for installing broadband fiber optic cables in Sun Prairie gave CBS 58 News a statement saying that what happened is heartbreaking:

We have talked with our contractors who are working on our behalf in Sun Prairie. We have confirmed to the best of our ability that they were not working in the impacted area last night.
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