Con Ed and FDNY Crews Respond to Reported Gas Issue, Street Collapse in Queens

WNBC 4 - January 05, 2019

by Wale Aliyu

A pair of gas and water main blasts have left a gaping hole on Northern Boulevard

A part of busy Northern Boulevard in Queens is shut down indefinitely after a gas main exploded and a water main burst, causing the road to collapse, fire officials said.

It's not clear what cause the pipes to burst at the construction site near Northern Boulevard and 114th Street in Corona at around 2:30 p.m. Friday. There was no work going on at time because a stop-work order had been issued at the site.

Witnesses said they heard a large boom and then saw water bursting into the air as debris flew everywhere. The blast was so powerful it blew out windows of cars parked in the area. "When you that have a big gas main, 24 inches, when that thing breaks, it's under a lot of pressure so it's enough to make a lot of noise," said FDNY Battalion 52 Fire Chief Thomas Wick.

Responding firefighters encountered a very heavy smell of gas, and they could see white vapor coming up, said Wick.

"You coudn't tell whether it was gas coming up under pressure, or whether it was water," he said.

The pipe explosions left a gaping hole in the foundation the size of a small house, about 30 feet in diameter and three stories down, according to Wick. DOT will have engineers on site to assess the street. Con Edison was also on scene.

No one was seriously hurt, officials said. One person who happened to be driving by was taken to the hospital with shortness of breath, Wick said.

The pipe breaks have undermined the westbound lanes of Northern Boulevard between 11th Street and 126th Street: "Northern Boulevard being shut down is gonna be a major, major problem here," Wick said. The stop-work order had been issued at the site because officials had noticed a crack in the street during construction and worried that it would move, according to Wick.

Authorities are attempting to piece together the difinitive sequence of events — whether the street collapse lead to the pipe and gas line ruptures, or whether a water main break lead to the partial street collapse.