Two Injured As Propane Tank Triggers Powerful Explosion In Flushing, Queens Home

NY Daily News - October 27, 2009

by John Lauinger and Bill Hutchinson

Two people were injured Monday night when a powerful propane explosion ripped through a Queens home, buckling and blowing out walls and shaking neighboring houses.

"Help us! There are people here. Help us!" a frantic woman trapped inside screamed in Chinese shortly after the blast, neighbors said.

The explosion, caused by a propane tank, occurred just before 8 p.m. at 32-35 Leavitt St. in Flushing, triggering a two-alarm response from 110 firefighters and paramedics.

Firefighters pulled the two injured victims - a man and woman - from the debris.

Their names were not immediately released. City records show that the house is owned by 61-year-old David Chin.

The victims were taken to New York-Presbyterian Hospital Weill Cornell. Both suffered burns but appeared likely to survive, an FDNY spokesman said.

The accidental explosion occurred while the man was "bleeding" a 20-pound propane tank near the houses's rear doorway, said Assistant FDNY Chief Edward Kilduff.

It appeared the propane wafted into the house and was ignited either by a light switch, or some other source, Kilduff told reporters at the scene.

The front wall of the two-story brick rowhouse was left buckled out by the explosion, and rubble rained down on a burgundy-colored minivan parked in the driveway.

The walls were completely blown out at the back of the house, exposing two upstairs bedrooms.

"I felt the ground move. I thought it was a plane coming down. There was a big rumble," said neighbor Bob Kiernan, who called 911.

The street in front of the house was littered with shattered glass and crumpled Sheetrock. The house next door was damaged to the point that the front door was jammed shut.

"I've never seen anything like it. There was debris all over the place. I heard a woman yelling in Chinese," Kiernan said.

Neighbor Alan Li, 15, said the blast rocked his home a half block away.

"My room just shook," Alan said. "It felt like someone fell down on the roof."

The incident was reminiscent of a gas explosion in April in Floral Park, Queens, that killed Ghanwatti Boodram, 40, and destroyed her home.