Two firefighters, civilian injured in explosion at Texas duplex

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by STEVE STOLER, MARJORIE OWENS, and TERESA WOODARD

WFAA

Posted on January 13, 2013 at 11:31 AM

LEWISVILLE, Texas - One civilian and two firefighters were injured in an explosion Friday afternoon at a duplex located at 520 East Main Street in Lewisville.

"All of the sudden something blew," said Bronnia Campbell, choking back tears. "I turned, and the complex blew."

Campbell lives across the parking lot from the duplex. She was outside when it happened.

"It was horrible. Sounded like a bomb. A massive blow, just massive," she said.

Several blocks around the site were evacuated as a precaution as Atmos Energy crews worked to shut off a four-inch gas line. The line was struck when an electric company was digging a hole for a a utility pole.

The duplex was about 50 feet from the gas line rupture, but wasn't evacuated at the time of the explosion. Those who lived upwind were notified of the leak, but not ordered to evacuate. Those downwind of the leak were ordered to evacuate.

Lewisville firefighters said that is not uncommon in a situation like this.

"The gas leak wasn't at the actual residence," said Lewisville Assistant Fire Chief Brian Freed. "It was outside the residence and it's a service line for this area. So it wasn't his actual line for the house."

Atmos had shut off the gas to the area surrounding the explosion by 5 p.m.

Firefighters initially responded to the call of a gas leak at about 10:04 a.m., said Assistant Chief Brian Freed said. At about 12:34 p.m., crews were fixing the line adjacent to the home when the explosion occurred.

"There was no indication, it was just an immediate explosion," he said.

Two firefighters and one person inside the duplex were injured. All three victims are expected to survive, though the person inside the duplex remained in the ICU as of 6 p.m. Friday. Everyone who lives in the duplex has been accounted for.

Campbell knew the residents on one side of the duplex were not home, but she also knew a resident on the other side was, and she expected the worst.

"We started screaming for Scott, but there was no way," she said.

Scott is the man who lives in the home that exploded. He works part time for the agency that operates the complex. He had to undergo surgery for critical internal injuries, but he is alive.

The explosion left behind massive debris in the nearby street and blew window screens off several nearby structures. Campbell said her windows and doors blew out. Other residents report their belongings flying off shelves.

"When it blew, glass was flying all over me," said Ieasha French, who lives next door to the duplex that exploded. "The window shattered and I didn't know what to do," she said, adding that a wall fell down on her too. Someone helped her out.

Firefighters from Lewisville, Carrollton and The Colony worked together to battle the subsequent fire.

Assistant Chief Brian Freed said the man inside the duplex's survival is likely due in part, to the quick response from firefighters. They were already on scene, and had been for two hours while crews worked to repair the gas leak, about 50 feet from Scott's home.

Ron Batts, the president and CEO of Christian Community Action, confirmed the duplex was owned by the non-profit. CCA also owns 26 other units that serve as low-income housing in the area.

There are 11 units in the complex where the explosion happened. All are occupied, but it's unclear how many renters were actually home. All were allowed to return home to pick up belongings late Friday evening.

"I've never seen something like it," Campbell said. "Can't believe something just blows up in front of your face like that."

Batts said CCA is working to provide shelter for anyone displaced by the explosion.

E-mail twoodard@wfaa.com

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