By Craig Day, The News On 6
RAMONA, OK -- A utility worker found dead several hours after a natural gas line erupted in north Texas is from Oklahoma.
The explosion killed 45-year-old James Neese, from Ramona. Neese leaves behind a wife and seven children, including a toddler and infant. Residents are saddened at the death of a hard working, family man.
While OSHA and National Transportation Safety Board investigators are working to find out how a utility crew ruptured a natural gas line, in Ramona people are saddened to hear the explosion killed one of their own.
"Living in this area now, and knowing there are people here that are related to him and everything else, you hate to hear that, you hate to hear that," said Russ Tracy, Ramona resident.
The body of James Neese was found Monday night about 600 feet from the explosion site after authorities deemed the charred area safe enough to do a thorough search.
Neese had attended the First Baptist Church in Ramona for about a year.
"Silence. It's kind of rough," said David Opie, church member. "They just had a brand new baby."
Church members, like David Opie, say Neese was a devoted family man, a loving husband and father of seven, including a one-month-old baby.
"That's what we saw. Just family life," Opie said. "They were just committed to each other, and I think most of Oklahoma is that way."
Neese was part of a 23-member crew working in the area for several months. He was operating an auger when the 36-inch natural gas pipeline ruptured.
For the few hundred people who live in Ramona, many say they want to support Neese's family in any way they can and will pray for them.
"Denominations don't matter, ethnicity doesn't matter. Anything else," Opie said. "Rural communities are a lot nicer than big towns.
Craig Day, The News On 6: "You'll try to show her that love."
David Opie, church member: "Oh yeah. We'll be there for her."
"Their family will be able to be encouraged and they'll be able to get by this time of loss," Russ Tracy said. "And my heart just goes out to the whole family and the whole situation."
Neese worked for C & H Power Line Construction Services in Dewey where he was described as a dedicated employee who was safety conscious.
The pastor at Ramona's First Baptist Church says funeral services are still pending.
Neese's wife released a statement late Tuesday night.
"This is obviously a horrible and traumatic disaster our entire family and loved ones are attempting to deal with at this time. James was a beloved, hard working father who always put his family first. He is survived by 7 children, 4 of which are under the age of 7 years old and one that is only three weeks old. Please respect our privacy as we attempt to deal with this devastating tragedy. In lieu of flowers, family members have set up for a memorial trust to benefit the infant children of Mr. Neese. Donations can be made to the "Neese Children Trust", P.O. Box 141, Vera, OK 74082.
-Lavonne Neese "