CLEBURNE -- The worker killed in Monday's pipeline explosion in Johnson County has been tentatively identified as a 45-year-old father of seven who often took his family along when he worked out of town.
James Robert Neece was a resident of Oklahoma, and his wife was in North Texas when the explosion occurred, Johnson County Sheriff Bob Alford said Tuesday at a Cleburne news conference.
Neece was operating an auger as a crew bored a hole for a power line pole when it struck a 36-inch natural gas pipeline. The explosion, which occurred south of the Pecan Plantation neighborhood, shot flames hundreds of feet into the air.
Neece had seven children, including an infant and a toddler, a childhood friend said Tuesday.
His wife and four of his children were staying in a travel trailer in the area, the friend said.
"He was a real family man," his friend said. "... He tried to take his family everywhere he worked and tried to be at home as much as he possibly could."
Neece, whose nickname was "Gator," was originally from Mississippi but lived in Ramona, Okla. He worked as a foreman and superintendent for C&H Power Line Construction Services, a company he had been loyal to for years, officials said during the Tuesday news conference at the Johnson County Sheriff's Office.
Fred Haag, chief operations officer for C&H Power Line Construction Services of Dewey, Okla., described Neece as a dedicated employee who was extremely safety-conscious.
His brother was also employed at the company and was working nearby when the explosion occurred around 2:40 p.m. Monday.
Linda Anderson, a spokeswoman for the Tarrant County medical examiner's office, said Tuesday that, because the body is badly burned, an official identification could take longer than usual.
"Even though we have people saying,'This is who it was,' we have to have a positive I.D.," she said. "It could be fingerprints or dental records."
Although at least seven people were injured in the blast, only two
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