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The Daily Wildcat

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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    “Gas leak closes road, shuts businesses”

     

    A hotel was evacuated and several businesses were shut down for more than two hours Tuesday morning, after a construction crew opened a gash in a natural gas pipeline.

    Before the line was repaired, the escaping gas produced a roar, comparable to a jet engine, as the gas was propelled into the atmosphere, said Acting Battalion Chief Bob Wetzel of the Decatur Fire Department.

    Wetzel said no one was hurt as a result of the accident.

    At about 9:35 a.m. the construction crew, working on a new access road to the Strand Cinema, at Illinois 121 and East Fitzgerald Road ruptured the two-inch high pressure line.

    “”There was quite a bit of gas released,”” Wetzel said.

    Illinois 121, from Fitzgerald Road north to the parking lot entrance for Steak-N- Shake and other businesses, was closed to traffic until 11:50 a.m.

    Firefighters from Decatur and the Long Creek Fire Protection District arrived on the scene within minutes.

    Employees in Hawthorn Suites smelled the gas right away. The accident occurred about 30 yards from the southwest corner of the building.

    Then firefighters entered the building and told the employees to make sure all the guests left the building, and did not start their cars or light up cigarettes.

    A pregnant desk clerk was told to go home, so she would not inhale the fumes.

    Judy Trusner, the breakfast cook at Hawthorn Suites, said she had already shut the stoves down when the leak occurred. She and other employees knocked on doors throughout the building, to tell guests they had to leave immediately.

    Wetzel said workers from Ameren Corp. controlled the leak with a temporary shut-off within about 15 minutes.

    At Bodine Environmental Services Inc., about a half mile southeast of the accident, the gas odor was so strong that workers thought it might be on their property. The wind was blowing from the northwest at about 12 miles per hour.

    “”Around 9:45 we smelled the gas leak,”” said safety manager Justin Butts. “”Around 10 we went out to our shop to make sure none of our employees were welding. You could walk outside the door and smell it.””

    Firefighters asked businesses near the accident to shut down, including Hickory River Smokehouse, Regions Bank and Coronas Mexican Grill. They were told they could reopen at about noon.

    There was a danger of a possible fireball or a building exploding, if a spark had ignited the gas, Wetzel said. The fire department’s main task was to establish a safety perimeter and clear everyone out of that area.

    In addition to the two fire departments, other agencies assisting at the scene included the Decatur Police DepartmentMacon County Emergency Management Agency and theIllinois Department of Transportation.

    Trusner said she was impressed by the efforts of the firefighters, who made sure all the guests and employees were evacuated from the hotel.

    “”They did a marvelous job,”” Trusner said. “”They were right on it.””

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