Springfield residents filing claims after massive explosion - WFSB 3 Connecticut

Springfield residents filing claims after massive explosion

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SPRINGFIELD, MA (WFSB) -

Dozens of people affected by Friday's massive natural gas explosion in Springfield's Entertainment District are filing their claims with the gas company Monday.

Human error is being blamed for the explosion that damaged 42 buildings and injured nearly 20 people. The explosion occurred at the Scores Bar & Nightclub near the intersection of Chestnut and Worthington streets around 5:30 p.m. Friday evening.

Springfield officials said a worker with Columbia Gas punctured a gas pipe and that's what led to the dangerous levels of gas that caused the explosion. According to investigators, an employee from Columbia Gas arrived at the bar after initial reports of a gas smell and began probing.

Police said the employee was searching for the leak before puncturing a gas line that was improperly marked. Investigators said it then took between 20 and 30 minutes for the gas line to be shut off, and during that time, gas seeped into the building, which ultimately led to the explosion.

Apartments, restaurants, bars and businesses as well as the governor's western Massachusetts office are located in the area. However, there are also several abandoned buildings in the downtown area.

Building manager Anthony Ardolino said he was still assessing the damage his building suffered. His building was only a block away from the blast and said all eight apartment units were condemned by the city.

"We've got substantial damage in all eight residential units," he said. "Those people are going to be without their homes for the next 30 to 60 days."

The state's Department of Public Utilities has launched an investigation into who's human error it was to puncture the gas line.

"They'll ultimately make a determination if we failed to follow some protocol or some procedure," said Columbia Gas President Stephen Bryant.

Representatives with the gas company are now meeting with residents and business owners at city hall as they file damage claims.

"(It's hard) not knowing when we'll be able to go back and if we lost our home," said Springfield resident Yahaira Caban.

Caban hasn't been able to get back into her apartment on Worthington Street since being evacuated Friday night. She was home when the explosion leveled the club next door, and spent the hours following the mass chaos and days after in shock.

"As soon as it happened I dashed downstairs and it was total chaos," said Caban, who has one of the 14 units in her building that is unlivable at this time.

She went to city hall to meet with gas company officials to see if they will help.

"Whether they're going to get us an apartment or going to help us with moving or whatever, they said they were going to call us back," she said.

Paul Mann was also home when the explosion occurred and remembers books flying across his home.

"The blast and then breaking glass and I just thought my God, what is going on," he said.

On Monday, Mann along with other residents were able to check on the damage in his building along with other tenants.

"I'm particularly concerned for individuals who have been displaced from homes," Bryant said. "So, we're trying to address those circumstance."

The explosion was heard as far away as East Longmeadow.

Copyright 2012 WFSB (Meredith Corporation). The Associated Press contributed to this report. All rights reserved.

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