Gas blast levels Mass. buildings; at least 18 hurt
SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WHDH) -- A natural gas explosion destroyed two buildings and injured at least 18 people in downtown Springfield Friday.
The powerful explosion could be felt for miles. It blew out windows in buildings within three blocks of the explosion, which occurred at a 4-story strip club called Scores.
Officials and witnesses all said it is a miracle no one was killed.
“I heard a big explosion like boom! I was like ‘what?’ and I started shaking and the poor dog started shaking and everything started shaking and we didn’t know what it was,” said a witness.
“We heard just a boom and as soon as the boom came, the glass came down,” said another witness.
Investigators said it was likely a natural gas leak that leveled the strip club and damaged 24 surrounding buildings. The building was empty because it had been evacuated an hour earlier after reports of a strong gas odor.
“The people were saying that came here they felt it as far as South Hadley and Chicopee and other areas, so it was a massive explosion that occurred,” said an official on the scene.
Eight firefighters, two police officers and some Columbia Gas workers were injured in the blast as they were investigating the leak. Two people in the area were also injured.
“Ranging from cuts to back injuries. Some of them had impact from the blast. No life-threatening injuries. We had one firefighter injured after the fact,” said a firefighter on scene.
The area surrounding the club is roped off as investigators begin to piece together what happened.
“We have initiated a very expensive investigation as to the origin and cause of this incident along with technical representatives from the Commonwealth’s Department of Public Utilities,” said another official.
According to Columbia Gas, the area has been inspected for other gas leaks, but none have been found.
“What we’re going to be doing for the next couple of days is we’re going to be continuing to monitor for any kind of gas readings in the streets,” said an official.
For now, dozens of people have been evacuated.
“Really this was a miracle on Worthington Street that no one was killed and I think it was the prompt actions and safety of so many others in the immediate aftermath that prevented this from getting any worse,” said an official.
Officials in Springfield have set up a shelter for those displaced by the explosion. Injuries are reported to be nonlife threatening.