Gas Leak in Soulard Causes Massive Explosion

Eleven people narrowly escaped with their lives the other day, February 5, when a South Dakota-based construction crew working for AT&T hit a natural gas line, triggering three large explosions. The construction crew was installing fiber optic cable for the Stars Design group, a clothing design firm located in St. Louis’ Soulard area, when they accidentally cut into a natural gas line. When they smelled gas, they immediately called 911 and alerted everybody in the 3-store building of the danger. All eleven employees escaped in the nick of time.

“I Could Have Been Dead”

Only thirty seconds after the employees evacuated the building, there was a massive explosion. Workers interviewed were extremely distraught by the close call. Azem Dullovi, a 29-year old maintenance worker for Stars, said that the force of the explosion threw him several feet, knocking him to the ground and injuring his back. An hour later, he was still suffering from irritation caused by smoke inhalation. “I could have been dead,” he said.

Laclede Gas crews responding to the disaster cut off gas and electrical service to the surrounding neighborhood and evacuated nearby homes as a precaution. St. Louis Fire Chief Dennis Jenkerson explained that firefighters could not put out the fire until gas and electricity to 21 nearby homes and businesses in the area had been shut off  due to the potential for gas to migrate through foundations of other buildings, causing even more explosions. The fire was extinguished around 6 p.m. last night, and the building was a total loss. Many residents congregated in Soulard restaurants and bars, waiting for their power to be restored on one of the coldest nights of the year. Service was eventually restored to the area around 10 p.m.

Residents in the area described the blast as a “roaring boom” that “felt like a shock wave”. The blast caused damage to several buildings in the area, and as of this morning, several people in the neighborhood reported experiencing burning eyes from the heavy smoke that shrouded the area.  No one was taken to the hospital. Even so, St. Louis Fire Captain Garon Mosby said it was a “very serious situation”. Firefighters responding to the fire tested gas level in the air. “Our meter was going crazy,” said Mosby. That’s when firefighters immediately ordered everybody in the building to get out. “It was pretty much a life-and-death order,” Mosby said.

Bret Schnitker, owner of Stars, said that fire officials had to get four more people out of the building just seconds before the explosion.”We got them out and within thirty seconds three large explosions. I think within minutes there would have been more than 11 people that wouldn’t be here today,” he said.

What to Do if You Detect a Strong Odor of Gas

The Soulard explosion illustrates the dangers that a serious gas leak can pose. If you smell a strong odor of gas in your home or business, take the following steps immediately:

  1. Do not attempt to find the leak source or turn off valves in appliances.
  2. Do not operate any electrical, battery or mechanical devices, including phones and lights, as these can spark an explosion in the presence of gas.
  3. Call Laclede Bas Emergency Services immediately at: 314.342.0800
  4. Evacuate the building, making sure to alert everyone inside that you suspect a gas leak.
  5. Do not under any circumstances re-enter the building until told that it is safe to do so.

Consult with a Top Accident Lawyer

If you or a loved one has been suffered harms of losses due to a gas leak–blast-related fall, smoke or fire inhalation, chemical irritation or property loss—caused by the negligence or purposeful actions of another, call one of our top trial lawyers at 314-409-7060 or 855-40-CRASH (toll free) for a free consultation to discuss your legal options.

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Reach out to Chris Dixon for personal injury, workers compensation, product liability, and other legal services for experienced, reliable counsel and representation in St. Louis.

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