A gas explosion at a W. Broad Street business yesterday afternoon sent a fireball into the sky, flattened cars in a lot next door and injured four veteran Columbus firefighters.
Three firefighters were blown out the front door after they walked into the Cherry Box adult bookstore about 2:45 p.m., Battalion Chief Doug Smith said. They had been called there after construction workers punctured a gas line along W. Broad.
Patrick Malone, who had been taken to Ohio State University Medical Center with second- and third-degree burns on his hands and face, was in fair condition last night, Smith said.
Barbara Capuana and Dan Whiteside suffered concussion-type injuries and “scrapes and bruises,” Smith said. They were taken to Mount Carmel West hospital, where Whiteside was in good condition. Capuana’s condition wasn’t available.
A fourth firefighter, Michael Warnimont, sprained his ankle, Smith said. A construction worker who complained of ringing in his ears was taken to Mount Carmel West as a precaution.
Smith said the construction workers were drilling under Broad Street to put in a water line. When firefighters arrived, they smelled the gas, went into the store and saw a major leak in the basement.
Firefighters told the West Side bookstore owner to leave the building. They were about to open windows and ventilate the building with fans when something ignited the gas, Smith said.
The explosion blew off the roof, shattered windows across the street and tossed pieces of the bookstore into the air. The building, at 2326 W. Broad St., burned for hours after the explosion because Columbia Gas couldn’t quickly turn off the gas.
Ken Stammen, Columbia Gas spokesman, said last night that workers had inserted an inflatable barrier into the steel gas line to stop the leak about 7 p.m. He said they were able to work on the line without turning off gas to about 2,100 nearby customers.
Travis Houghton, manager of King of the Hill Automotive next door, and mechanic Billy Brooks had just left their building when the Cherry Box blew up.
“I was ducking and dodging and running at the same time,” Houghton said. “A whole window frame came down next to us.”
He said three cars in the lot were smashed and other cars and a building were damaged.
Joyce Ratliff, who was driving east on W. Broad Street, said the blast “looked like a mushroom cloud.” Her car wasn’t damaged.
Smith said a pilot light on a furnace or water heater might have ignited the gas.
West Coast 911 firefighting news source – The Columbus Dispatch