The force of a blast that leveled two buildings registered on a seismograph at Columbia University. The effect of the blast on New York citizens and families is no less earth-shaking.
On March 12, as utility workers began to investigate a report of a gas smell in the area, an explosion ripped through 1646 Park Avenue. Eyewitness accounts described the windows blowing out of a ground level store, followed by the collapse of the five-story building, floor by floor. An adjacent building, 1644 Park Avenue, then similarly collapsed.
Eight people were killed in the blast. A preliminary report by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) noted the following:
- A pressure test identified a gas leak close to 1646 Park Avenue.
- Debris from the gas line was removed for further investigation.
- Segments of damaged and undamaged gas and water main lines are to be excavated and shipped for inspection by the NTSB
Rubble from the site was shipped to Randall Island for analysis. Other than memory, the twisted steel, plasterboard and personal effects in the pile are the only evidence of people who once thrived in the two older buildings.
According to officials, cast-iron gas pipes that run underground in the area are more than a century old. Other than the call that briefly preceded the blast, utility trouble calls are not common to the area.
Approximately nine-months ago, a contractor installed a gas line between the basement and fifth floor of one of the buildings. The repair may become a focus point of the investigation.
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