GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (AP/CBS4) – Three people have been injured in a home explosion near a leak in a natural gas line serving Colorado Mesa University.
Authorities say Grand Junction firefighters were working with Xcel Energy at the leak site Tuesday afternoon when crews spotted a fire at a home that then exploded due to the gas inside. One person in the home has been released from the hospital. Two others were being hospitalized overnight.
The home and one next door were left to burn to use up leaking gas. Authorities say they evacuated nearby homes and two schools as gas leaked into sewer lines into Tuesday evening.
“A huge explosion; it sounded like a bomb blast and I was looking that way because of all the emergency vehicles. It was tremendous and I saw them running through the flames, three college kids,” witness Carol DuKett-Cotts said. “They ran down to my front yard and I made them sit down. They were burned and I knew they were going to go into shock.”
Xcel says a construction crew unaffiliated with the utility had been working in the area.
The university was without gas, and dozens of buildings were without electricity.
Some residents told CBS4 they smelled gas all morning.
“The gas smell was overpowering. I just had the feeling something was going to spark it. And then it did,” DuKett-Cotts said.
A high school and an elementary school were evacuated. Then, later in the afternoon, about three hours after the explosion, the evacuation was extended to include more area. The gas from the transmission line got into the sewer system. Xcel and city crews went around the neighborhood and started taking man hole covers off of the street to vent the sewer system.
CBS4 learned that the city was attempting to install a new traffic signal in the area. They had subcontracted out work to put the conduit under the road. That’s how the gas line broke.
(TM and © Copyright 2013 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)