SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) - A massive gas explosion destroyed a downtown Springfield bar, sent glass and bricks flying down Worthington Street, and injured several people, including nine Springfield firefighters and two police officers. Fortunately, all those injured are expected to survive.
"It really was a miracle on Worthington Street that no one was killed," Lieutenant Governor Tim Murray said during a news conference in Springfield Friday night.
Dozens of people have been forced from their homes due to the blast, and police are preventing any non-emergency personnel from getting near the blast area.
Mayor Domenic Sarno says that they know of a total of 18 injured people, nine of whom are Springfield firefighters, two are Springfield police officers, four are Columbia Gas workers, one is a Springfield Water and Sewer Commission worker, and two are civilians.
Jane Albert of Baystate Medical Center told 22News that ten patients were brought to their Emergency Room due to the explosion, but none of them are in critical condition. She said that she does not anticipate that any additional injured people will be coming in. Five of those brought to the ER will be admitted to the hospital, and none of the injuries were burns.
Mary Orr from Mercy Medical Center told 22News that they are treating eight patients, including two firefighters. All of them are expected to survive.
Dennis Leger, Aide to the Springfield Fire Commissioner, said that some of their injured firefighters have already been sent home. He said that the worst injuries at this time appear to be facial cuts, but they are worried about some concussions. One firefighter had fallen into a nearby manhole following the blast.
The explosion happened after a gas leak in the area, which was reported around 4:20 P.M.
The loud boom, which came just after 5:00, could be heard and felt as far away as Hardwick, Granby, Belchertown, and Monson. In downtown, the explosion sent a huge cloud of smoke into the air, and people standing nearby were knocked to their feet.
The Scores gentlemen's club was destroyed in the explosion. The bar was not open for business at the time of the blast.
All Springfield fire companies reported to the area following the explosion, and ambulances from nearby communities like Agawam and Wilbraham were also called in. Shattered glass and bricks can be seen strewn on the sidewalks on Worthington Street. Windows were broken as far away as the Hampden Bank building on Harrison Avenue.
22News reporter Ryan Walsh witnessed several people cut or bleeding, and put onto stretchers.
Buildings in the area of the earlier gas leak had been evacuated prior to the explosion, but after the blast, firefighters and police went to nearby buildings to get remaining people out.
The Situation Downtown:
Fire Commissioner Joseph Conant says that there are 12 buildings in all with significant damage, and about 12 others with minor damage.
At least 40 apartment units in the area near the explosion were evacuated, and police are not allowing people within a perimeter they have set-up close to the explosion site.
Civilians are not being allowed inside the area between Harrison, Bridge Tyler, Worthington, Chestnut and Spring Streets. Residents of the area may go to a shelter that has been set-up at Central High School. Mayor Domenic Sarno says that food and transportation will be provided.
For those who have damage, the city's Housing Division will be staffing its phones starting at 7:00 Saturday morning. You can call them at (413) 787-6731 or 787-6732.
Columbia Gas crews informed Captain Cheryl Claprood that they are now finding "higher than normal" levels of natural gas readings still underground some the the streets in the area.