Human error to blame for massive explosion - 13abc.com Toledo (OH) News, Weather and Sports

Human error to blame for massive explosion

Posted: Updated:

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (AP) - A utility worker responding to reports of a natural gas leak in one of New England's largest cities punctured a pipe and an unknown spark ignited a massive explosion that injured 18 people and damaged 42 buildings, the state fire marshal announced Sunday.

Friday night's natural gas blast in Springfield's entertainment district was caused by "human error," State Fire Marshal Stephen Coan said at a news conference. He didn't name the Columbia Gas Go. worker who pierced the high-pressure pipe.

The worker was trying to locate the source of the leak with a metal probe that tests natural gas levels when the probe damaged the underground pipe, Coan said. A flood of gas then built up in a building that housed a strip club, and a spark touched off the blast, officials said.

Columbia Gas planned a news conference for later Sunday afternoon. A message left for a company spokeswoman wasn't immediately returned. Columbia Gas, a subsidiary of public company NiSource Inc., announced earlier Sunday that it planned to open a claims center for residents and businesses affected by the explosion at City Hall on Monday.

Preliminary reports showed the blast damaged 42 buildings housing 115 residential units. Three buildings were immediately condemned, and 24 others require additional inspections by structural engineers to determine whether they are safe. The building that housed the Scores Gentleman's Club was completely destroyed.

After the pipe was ruptured, authorities evacuated several buildings. Most of the people injured were part of a group of gas workers, firefighters and police officers who ducked for cover behind a utility truck just before the blast. The truck was demolished.

Some officials said it was a miracle no one was killed. Springfield Fire Commissioner Joseph Conant praised the actions of city firefighters.

"The firefighters did an excellent job evacuating the area which certainly prevented additional civilian injuries and saved many lives," Conant said.

Columbia Gas officials have been cooperating with investigators and have determined that there are no more gas leaks in the neighborhood, Mayor Domenic Sarno said.

Coan said the investigation is being turning over to the state Department of Public Utilities. It's not clear whether investigators will ever be able to determine what caused the spark that ignited the explosion.

Springfield, which is 90 miles west of Boston and has about 150,000 residents, is the largest city in western Massachusetts. It's known as the home of the Basketball Hall of Fame, which is not near the blast site.

The city has been rebuilding from damage caused by a tornado in June 2011.

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

  • Top StoriesMore>>

  • Students pack bottled water in school supplies this year

    Students pack bottled water in school supplies this year

    Tuesday, August 19 2014 10:55 PM EDT2014-08-20 02:55:24 GMT
    Nathan Rizer came to Owens Community College all the way from Columbus to study machinery. The new student heard about the Toledo water crisis earlier this month and came ready to go."The locals said I should pretty much drink bottled water but I can pretty much shower and brush my teeth," says Rizer. "I decided to still stick with bottled water, just in case."OCC leaders brought in bottled water and covered drinking fountains during the water emergency earlier this month. If it were to happe...
    Nathan Rizer came to Owens Community College all the way from Columbus to study machinery. The new student heard about the Toledo water crisis earlier this month and came ready to go."The locals said I should pretty much drink bottled water but I can pretty much shower and brush my teeth," says Rizer. "I decided to still stick with bottled water, just in case."OCC leaders brought in bottled water and covered drinking fountains during the water emergency earlier this month. If it were to happe...
  • Peanut and almond butters recalled due to salmonella risk

    Peanut and almond butters recalled due to salmonella risk

    Wednesday, August 20 2014 7:42 AM EDT2014-08-20 11:42:24 GMT
    NEW YORK (AP) - A unit of Hain Celestial Group Inc. is recalling some peanut and almond butter because of possible salmonella contamination. The company said Tuesday that there have been reports of four illnesses that may be related to the nut butters. They were sold under the brand names Arrowhead Mills peanut butters and MaraNatha almond butters and peanut butters. Also being recalled were some lots of private label almond butter from grocers Whole Foods, Trader Joe's, Kroger and Safeway. A...
    NEW YORK (AP) - A unit of Hain Celestial Group Inc. is recalling some peanut and almond butter because of possible salmonella contamination. The company said Tuesday that there have been reports of four illnesses that may be related to the nut butters. They were sold under the brand names Arrowhead Mills peanut butters and MaraNatha almond butters and peanut butters. Also being recalled were some lots of private label almond butter from grocers Whole Foods, Trader Joe's, Kroger and Safeway. A...
  • Fighting human trafficking after 11 arrests

    Fighting human trafficking after 11 arrests

    Tuesday, August 19 2014 10:40 PM EDT2014-08-20 02:40:41 GMT
    The Wood County Sheriff is hoping to send a clear message: human trafficking will not be tolerated."We're really working hard to get to the point where they say no, we're not going to meet in Wood county," Sheriff Mark Wasylyshyn said.Last weekend, law enforcement agencies from around the area set their sights on Bowling Green.Sheriff's deputies set up at the Days Inn Hotel and ended up making 11 arrests."Part of the reason we chose this past weekend is because the tractor pull," the sheriff ...
    The Wood County Sheriff is hoping to send a clear message: human trafficking will not be tolerated."We're really working hard to get to the point where they say no, we're not going to meet in Wood county," Sheriff Mark Wasylyshyn said.Last weekend, law enforcement agencies from around the area set their sights on Bowling Green.Sheriff's deputies set up at the Days Inn Hotel and ended up making 11 arrests."Part of the reason we chose this past weekend is because the tractor pull," the sheriff ...

Area Events Calendar

See It, Shoot It, Send It!