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Mass. Gas Explosion Kills Two

March 4, 1998

ATTLEBORO, Mass. (AP) _ An explosion leveled a house Wednesday after a backhoe apparently ruptured a natural gas main, killing two people and injuring seven.

The explosion, felt up to a quarter-mile away, occurred where a public works crew had been digging.

Debris was thrown hundreds of feet away, and heavy smoke spewed from the ruins of the house.

Robert Laroche, who was in the yard of a nearby house, said at least six people fell into the crater caused by the blast.

``We pulled people out of the hole,″ Laroche said. ``Then the fire started from the gas. I guess we saved a couple of people. There was a couple of guys buried. We couldn’t get them out.″

Fire Department spokesman Edward Guillette confirmed that two people were killed.

Bay State Gas spokeswoman Carl Churchill said the blast appeared to have been caused by the backhoe, but said it was under investigation.

Five people were taken to Sturdy Hospital with injuries that ranged from minor to serious, said spokeswoman Lisa McCluskie. She said the blast was felt at the hospital, about a quarter of a mile from the explosion.

Another injured person was flown to the University of Massachusetts Medical Center in Worcester and a seventh was taken to Rhode Island Hospital in Providence.

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