UPDATE: Gas explosion injures several workers


WILKES-BARRE (WOLF) -- Gas exploded from the ground last night in Wilkes-Barre, but luckily there was no fire.

At least two workers were taken to the hospital. We have more on the loud noise that had some people in the area scared for their lives.

Everything has been closed off now. The UGI trucks are gone except for one, and there are some asphalt bits and pebbles left around, after gas suddenly exploded at this construction site on Friday night.

Isaac Howe said the pressure on his head felt like weights as the gas escaped. He shot video of a plume of gas shooting up out of the ground.

From another angle, you could hear the change in sound and the roar as soon as William Tattersall opened his door.

"I heard a blow and looked out. I thought they were purging the lines myself because it blew a little earlier, but it wasn't as bad," says Tatersall. "The second time, it was loud. It sounded like a jet engine going off."

"I said I better get out of here. It smells like gas,"says neighbor Andy LoBue. "I saw some people run to their cars and take off over here in the parking lot and I thought that was a good idea, so I jumped in my truck and left."

City assistant fire chief William Murtha says they got the call at 8:55 p.m. Friday. UGI workers were replacing a gas main when it exploded.

Rocks and dirt pelted workers in the face, and shattered their windows. Murtha says it was a massive mechanical failure of a valve.

Firefighters were concerned about a huge blaze, but say workers shut off the line in 15 minutes. At least two UGI workers were taken to the hospital.

"We had an equipment failure which caused some gas to escape. We've shut off the mains, making repairs," says UGI spokesman Don Brominski, director of business development.

"At the corner here at the red light, as I stopped here, t sounded like a jet engine was just blaring right next to me," says Haystacks Restaurant owner David Joseph.

Businesses in the area shut down over safety concerns. We found out that the Quick Stop closed early and the bar side of CJ's Pizza did too because of no gas.

David Joseph came to check on his restaurant after the water heater and gas went out.

"There was no visual. I mean, it was just gas escaping from a pipe at that point," says Joseph.

Joseph was afraid business would be interrupted, but said the gas was turned on around 7:30 a.m. Saturday, just in time for a private party for a 50th anniversary tonight.

This afternoon, UGI was turning the gas back on for about 70 customers.

"I just hope all the workers are OK," says Tattersall.

Brominski says UGI is still investigating the cause of the equipment failure.


Friday Night/Saturday AM :

Witnesses reported hearing a sound like a "jet engine" when gas exploded out of a pipe, but luckily there was no fire.

Firefighters say they were called to the area of Spring Street and Route 309 at 8:55 p.m. Friday.

A contractor working for UGI Penn Natural Gas had an equipment failure of a valve that caused a "very significant gas leak," assistant fire chief William Murtha said.

"It blew so many rocks and so much dirt, and smashed windows of all the vehicles of the contractors and vehicles that were there," says Murtha. "These guys were getting pelted with rocks and dirt."

Murtha says workers with UGI and Honesdale-based contractor Leeward had scratches and cuts on their faces, and at least two were taken to the hospital for treatment of apparently minor injuries.

Several others were evaluated by medics and refused treatment, Murtha said, adding that at least four employees were evaluated.

"It was a massive mechanical failure," says Murtha. "Even though it was a potentially catastrophic gas leak, I would have to commend UGI and the contractor for doing the right thing."

Murtha says the gas in the high-pressure line was shut off in about 15 minutes.

Wilkes-Barre Fire Dept. responded with several pieces of apparatus and Wilkes-Barre Police Dept. handled traffic control.

"If we do have a fire here, this is gonna be massive," was heard over emergency radio broadcasts.

UGI spokesman Don Brominski, director of business development, also mentioned an "equipment failure" and says under 20 customers were impacted and may have gas restored on Saturday.

Brominski said they are putting in a new gas line from Home Depot to Sheetz, and that it was not an "explosion" since there was no "combustion." Murtha described it as a "gas leak."

The bar at CJ's Pizza, which usually stays open until 1 a.m., was closing down when we stopped by. The bartender said there was no gas since it had to be shut off.

A Leeward worker said he believed the injured workers were released and back working at the site. We saw workers sweeping up pieces of asphalt that landed on the opposite side of Spring Street on the sidewalk.

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