Etobicoke, ON Huge Gas Explosion, Apr 2003
EXPLOSION LEVELS WEST-END BUILDING, IGNITES BLAZE.
AREA RESIDENTS RATTLED "IT WAS REALLY, REALLY FRIGHTENING".
Etobicoke, Ontario - Toronto police said three people were injured and others are unaccounted for, after an explosion in the city's west end destroyed a building and ignited a five alarm blaze. The explosion sent debris flying and shook area homes.
Fire officials said the building at 3885-3887 Bloor St. W., near Kipling Ave., was "gone." The cause of the blast wasn't immediately known, but there were reports that some people in the area had smelled gas before the explosion.
The building housed a row of stores, including Milan's Pizza and Elegance Cleaners, with residential apartments above.
Jody Bryck was standing on her driveway on Ashbourner Dr., north of Bloor St. W., when the explosion knocked her to the ground. She ran inside, grabbed her cordless phone and called 911 as she ran towards the blaze across the street, about five house lengths from her home.
"It was horrible," she said. "It blew up the windows in the plaza across the street and broke some of my neighbors' windows."
The 23-year-old walked towards the fire and saw the second story of the two-story building was completely gone and bricks and debris were everywhere. "I don't think anyone would survive that," she said.
Bryck was not injured in the explosion, nor was her one-year-old daughter who slept soundly inside as helicopters and fire trucks began surrounding the street.
After Bryck called 911, fire officials began reporting the explosion had occurred at her home - 9 Ashbourne Dr. "My family was freaking out," she said. "They were calling me, they were calling my neighbors, they were calling each other. My mom called City Pulse and said to get my address off the TV."
Other terrified residents said the blast shook homes on neighboring streets.
Eileen Cowie heard the explosion around 1:30 p.m. and immediately rushed outside to see what was going on.
"There was smoke all over the place. It was really, really frightening. Everybody was running over to see what happened. There were people living above those shops," said Cowie. Although Cowie didn't smell gas herself, she said some of her neighbors told her they did.
Betty Beben-Cizzio, who lives on Ashbourne Dr., close to Bloor St., felt her house shake.
"I thought a truck hit my house, it was so loud. It knocked stuff down off my shelves," said Beben-Cizzio.
When she looked outside, Beben-Cizzio saw a scene of complete devastation.
"The building wasn't a building any more. The first floor was just gone, and there was fire and smoke everywhere. The cars parked out front were on fire, the windows in the stripmall across the street from the building were all blown out. It was unbelievable," said Beben-Cizzio, who said she was still in shock.
"That could have been me in there.
I go to that drycleaners all the time, and I've eaten pizza in there before, too. I just can't believe this," Beben-Cizzio.
"If you were anywhere around that building on the sidewalk, you would have been finished," she added.
A half hour before the blast, Beben-Cizzio said her cable TV reception suddenly disappeared, and didn't come back again.
Brendan Howlett, who works at a call center three blocks away, said he felt a shockwave that rattled the windows in his office building. "We looked out the window and there was a column of brown smoke and dust," he said.
"Thousands of pieces of paper were in the air."
At least two ambulance buses were on the scene and search and rescue teams were on their way to sift through the rubble. Bloor St. W. has been closed to traffic west of Kipling Ave., and Bloor W. buses were being diverted along Dundas St. W. The Bloor subway line has not been affected.
Tribe Magazine Article 2003-04-24
Listing of the Casualties:
TINA KIRKIMTZIS, 32.
ELIZABETH ROY, 74.
LILLIAN GUGLIETTI, 73.
ADELE BROWN, 73.
IRENE MIYAMA, 52, beautician.
ROBERT FAIRLEY, 50.
DORA CARAMBELAS, 60.