Authorities Investigate After Explosion in Ohio

Authorities Investigate After Explosion in Ohio

( – A busy block in Youngstown, OH, was rocked by a huge explosion on May 28.

Officials with the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) blamed a gas line that was inactive but still pressurized for the blast near the city’s Central Square. The line had been cut by officials just six minutes prior. NTSB officials interviewed several workers in the building’s basement as part of a HAZMAT investigation.

So far, officials believe the workers were clearing the basement of outdated utility infrastructure, which included aging pipes. It was one step in a project sanctioned by the city to fill the basement’s vault so that sidewalks could be built along the surface above.

Two cuts were initially made without incident. However, workers noticed a problem shortly after the third. Gas began leaking into the area, prompting an immediate evacuation of the basement. One worker also pulled the fire alarm lever and alerted banking personnel to evacuate the building. Another worker also called 911. They were later credited with getting many of the building’s residents out safely.

The blast damaged a building that contained a Chase bank location and several apartment homes. One person died, while seven others suffered injuries. Akil Drake, the man who was killed by the explosion, worked as an employee for the bank.

Tom Chapman, who serves as a board member for the NTSB, said the workers had no indication that gas had become pressurized in the pipes. They also had no other reason to believe that any dangerous gasses were present. However, the agency is currently focused on a cut to the inactive line. Chapman also stressed that the incident appears to be purely accidental and he does not currently suspect foul play. He also said they will investigate why the inactive line still contained so much pressurized gas.

The ongoing investigation has been limited over fears that the building’s structural integrity may have been compromised. Chapman called the damage “devastating” and noted that the lower floor fell into the basement shortly after the explosion. The street and a nearby building have been closed over fears of a building collapse.

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