Human error was the cause of Friday’s natural gas explosion in downtown Springfield that leveled a strip club, damaged dozens of other buildings, and injured at least 19 people, officials said today. In a statement, State Fire Marshal Stephen Coan’s office said the explosion at Scores Gentleman’s Club at 453 Worthington St. occurred when a worker from Columbia Gas of Massachusetts who was investigating a gas odor accidentally punctured a high-pressure gas line at the foundation of the building. The blast, which also displaced hundreds of people, occurred at around 5:25 p.m.
According to the statement, investigators are still trying to determine the source of the odor that prompted the worker to respond on Friday. “The investigative team believes that the gas from the leak entered the building around the pipe and at some point reached the correct explosive level of gas and air, which was ignited by any of many possible ignition sources inside the building,” the statement said. Officials did not identify the worker this afternoon.
Investigators expect to conclude the scene examination today, and the Department of Public Utilities is now taking over the probe, according to Coan’s office.
Reginald Zimmerman, a spokesman for the state agency that oversees the utilities department, said investigators will work to determine whether Columbia Gas had all of the proper safety measures in place at the time of the explosion.
Thomas Walsh, a spokesman for the mayor, said that 115 residential units, a mix of apartments and condominiums, were affected by the blast and hundreds of people were at least temporarily displaced. He did not have a more precise figure. Walsh said some residents had been permitted to return to their homes as of Sunday afternoon, but he could not say how many. Nobody stayed overnight at a shelter the city opened on Friday, he said, though some people came by to receive information about the recovery effort.
Factors causing or contributing to gas explosions resulting in burn injuries or wrongful death have included improper gas line locations, faulty parts and equipment in mobile homes, workplace equipment, camping equipment, and defectively designed propane stoves. One important signal indicating the potential for a catastrophic event is the odor of gas (note that although gas has no smell, laws require that odorants be added for safety purposes). Should a gas leak be suspected, the property owner or occupants should immediately evacuate, then contact the proper authorities.
If you or a loved one has suffered burn injuries from a fire, explosion or electrocution, contact a personal injury attorney at our Boston law office. We are here to answer your questions and protect your legal rights. Call us at (617) 742-1900 or Toll Free at (800) 545-3732.