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Apartment House Collapses in Explosion; Eight Injured

July 19, 1989

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) _ An explosion ripped through a small apartment building today, injuring eight people who apparently didn’t hear or ignored officials’ warnings to leave because of a natural gas leak, authorities said.

The blast at the public housing project occurred more than 90 minutes after a car ran into a gas meter and workers were unable to shut off the gas quickly, authorities said.

Some of the injured people were trapped in rubble for up to four hours as workers tried to free them while not disturbing the wreckage, authorities said.

″It was a bad situation. It’s almost like pickup sticks. You never know which one is going to cause the rest to collapse,″ said Fire Chief Don Werner.

Workers searched through debris of the two-story brick building in the Sawyer Manor complex to check for any other possible victims but said they didn’t expect to find anyone else.

Hospitals reported receiving eight injured people, including four in critical condition.

Assistant Fire Chief Neil Mills said he had no idea why anyone was in the building at the time of the explosion. The building had three apartments, plus a community center and offices.

″They had told them to get out of the bulding, but people were going in and out,″ he said. ″You know how people are. They take a chance to save a little bit of something.″

When the blast occurred at 3:45 a.m., attempts still were being made to find the proper wrench necessary to turn off a high-volume gas line.

″Normally it would be shut off at the meter,″ Werner said. ″Well, the car’s sitting on top of the meter.″

Police Sgt. Mike Dailey said authorities were first called to the scene on a report of a disturbance, which may have involved drivers trying to ram another car. Somehow, one car hit the gas meter behind the apartment.

He said he did not know whether there had been any arrests.

The force of the blast showered the area with glass and broke windows in surrounding buildings in the project.

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