Bronx, NY Laundry Explosion, Jun 1980


New York (AP) - A broken gas main apparently was to blame for an explosion that leveled a Bronx laundry, killing a 9-month-old girl and injuring at least 14 people, officials say.
Firefighters searched through the ruins of A & C Cleaners in an effort to determine if any other people were killed in the Wednesday blast.
"We'll keep working until it's broom clean," said Deputy Borough Commander Thomas Halford.
The fire marshal's office was investigating the explosion.
Authorities said 9-month-old MELISSA MEGNAUTH was killed when the explosion ripped through the one-story brick building.
"I smelled gas and ran to the window," said America Jimenez, who lives next door. "I saw a lady with a little girl in a carriage. Then the building collapsed and I never saw the little girl."
The child's mother, identified as LILLIAN MEGNAUTH, was treated for breezes and released. Most of those injured sustained minor wounds, but one man received spine damage and fractures of both legs.
Four firefighters also received minor injuries.
A spokesman for Consolidated Edison said that moments before the explosion members of a crew investigating a heavy gas smell in the neighborhood recorded "a dangerous level on equipment." The spokesman said the smell had been detected by a utility worker monitoring a crew that was resurfacing Morris Avenue.
The utility said the explosion "was
caused by a broken 8-inch gas main." Con Edison said the break was caused by "grossly negligent procedures" by the contracting company that was doing road work for the city.
"The contractor had removed the asphalt and base concrete from the roadway but had not put down steel plates or diverted traffic as dictated by sound engineering practices. Our investigation shows that the main broke because of the combination of weight and vibrations from the contractor's heavy equipment," Con Edison said.
The utility said it had secured an injunction May 12 against these practices by the contractor, but assurances that the practices had been discontinued "proved to be tragically unreliable."
Efforts to reach the contractor for comment were unsuccessful.

Santa Cruz Sentinel California 1980-06-12