Monday, August 18, 2003
Workman Burned in Gas Line
Workman Burned in Gas Line Fire Near Police Station
A workman repaving the back parking lot at police headquarters hit a gas line today, touching off a small but intense fire that burned him and caused evacuation of the nearby library before firefighters shut down the line and brought it under control.
The worker, identified by police as George Courser, 45, of Granby, was taken to Bridgeport Hospital’s burn unit suffering first and second degree burns to his neck and arms. He was treated and released, police said. He is employed by Garrity Asphalt Reclaiming Inc. of Simsbury.
Flames leap from a gas line after a pavement resurfacing machine operator struck it today during repaving of the parking lot behind police headquarters. WestportNow.com photo
Firefighters managed to turn off the gas within a few minutes. No other injuries were reported and damage was limited to the pavement resurfacing machine Courser was operating, according to Fire Chief Denis McCarthy.
The machine, called a reclaiming machine, mixes asphalt and dirt prior to repaving a road surface. It was not immediately known how deep the machine’s blade scraped when it hit the 2-1/2-inch gas line which feeds a natural gas refueling facility in the parking lot.
Police said later that they would remove the gas line as the refueling facility is no longer used.
Fire and police officers on the scene said the incident could have been a lot worse given the proximity to the Westport Public Library and the busy Jesup Green area. The library was evacuated as a precaution during the fire.
Detective David Eason said he was standing near the back lot when the incident occurred. “There was a whoosh and the whole place went up and this guy lands at my feet,” he said, referring to the machine operator.
Courser told firefighters he jumped from the machine when he hit the gas line and flames erupted. He did not suffer inhalation burns and his clothes were not burned.
Gerry Bothwell, who is employed by FGB Construction of Norwalk, a paving contractor, was working nearby. “I saw the flames fly out from under the machine,” he said.
Passersby who gathered behind police lines on Jesup Road could see flames shooting 30 feet into the air and licking at overhanging trees, some of which were blackened by the heat and flames.
The parking lot, which is directly behind police headquarters and adjacent to the library, was undergoing paving preparation work when the accident occurred shortly before 4 p.m.
“It was a big fireball,” said Capt. Robert Kepchar of the Westport Fire Department, who directed operations at the scene.
Firefighters quickly located the gas shutoff valve in Jesup Road, about 50 yards north of where the gas line was struck. As soon as the line was shut off, the flames died down.
Patrons were allowed to return to the library and the adjacent roadways were reopened by 5 p.m. as a television news helicopter hovered over the scene.
A worker for Southern Connecticut Gas. Co. said the utilty was checking to see if the gas line was properly marked.
Posted 08/18/03 at 09:59 PM Permalink