Friday night, a natural gas explosion in Springfield's entertainment district leveled a gentlemen's club, damaged dozens of buildings and sent close to two dozen people to the hospital, including 12 firefighters.
Sunday, less than 48 hours after the blast, officials announced the cause of the explosion.
"We have determined that human error, as opposed to fault of the gas infrastructure, is what the cause of the explosion was," said State Fire Marshal Stephen Coan.
After digging through the rubble and asking plenty of questions, Coan reached the conclusion that an employee from Columbia Gas punctured a gas pipe with a probe as he was working on the initial call to Scores gentlemen's club for an odor of gas.
"At this point, he called the fire department and the gas company to shut off the gas," Coan stated. "The fire department evacuated the area which certainly saved many lives."
As the evacuation continued, it took Columbia Gas 20 to 30 minutes to get a crew to the area to shut off the gas to the building. Officials said the club filled with gas for the explosion during that time.
While there was no loss of life, the Columbia Gas understands its role in this incident. The company's president said at this point he does not know what could have been done differently.
His employee followed protocol and normally would not have struck the pipe.
"You drive the hole to determine if there is any gas outside," said Steve Bryant, Columbia Gas president. "He stepped over two feet and it turned out to be exactly the amount that the service was offset from the valve, which is a very unusual circumstance."
The gas company does have documentation showing where the gas pipes are for each building, but their technicians do not commonly refer to that information.
"In fact, this is interesting, we have been in business for 150 years, and the availability for those drawings to be viewed by a technician on the scene has only been available for six to eight weeks," Bryant stated.
Coan said there were too many possible ignition sources to know what sparked the explosion.
Beginning Sunday afternoon, the Department of Public Utilities will continue the investigation, focusing on Columbia Gas.
Any business or resident needing to make a claim can speak with a Columbia Gas representative at Springfield City Hall on Monday between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. in room 220.
Columbia Gas can also be reached for claims by phone toll free at 1-800-869-1876, extension 1.
Copyright 2012 WSHM (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.