Three workers were injured on Thursday night when a gas line exploded during construction at John F. Kennedy High School in Marble Hill, which is located in the Bronx but politically part of Manhattan. The men suffered burns on their hands and bodies, and one is in critical condition. The New York Times reports that the explosion occurred just after 8 p.m., as the workers were draining gas from a main in the science lab before starting construction. Police said they failed to drain the line completely, setting off a blast that “heavily damaged” the fourth, fifth, and six floors of the building.
The explosion left a hole in the side of the building, blew out windows, and sent debris falling onto the street below. “It seems like some exterior walls, the integrity of the walls, are in question. But there is no fire,” said a city official. Nearby buildings shook, and residents poured onto the street. “We thought it was a terrorist attack,” Jackie Morris, who lives in the neighborhood, told CBS New York. “We really did not know what it was.”
About 140 firefighters responded to the blast, and they are searching the building to make sure no one is trapped inside. Four other workers were in the building at the time, and it’s unclear if they were injured. “Honestly, I thought it was a bomb,” Jason Osorio, a custodian who ran from the building, told the Daily News. “I’m happy to be alive.”
Mayor de Blasio, who arrived at the scene late on Thursday night, said the project was being run by the school construction authority through a private contractor. “A very troubling evening for residents here in Marble Hill. The building is part of a campus that houses eight smaller schools. They felt a blast. They felt a building shake. I talked to some of the elected officials here — they literally felt it themselves,” de Blasio said. “And what we see here at JFK High is a shocking scene.”
This is the second gas-related explosion in the city this year. In March an explosion in the East Village killed two people, injured 25, and brought down three buildings.