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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Gas line rupture forces evacuation of area at Illinois 121 and East Fitzgerald Road

     

    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 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 underground, 2-inch diameter, 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 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 Illinois controlled the leak with a temporary shutoff within 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 12 mph.

    “”Around 9:45, we smelled the gas leak,”” said Justin Butts, the company’s safety manager. “”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.””

    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.

    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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