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Article: Investigation Underway After Fatal Gas Line Explosion in Youngstown, Ohio

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has provided preliminary findings regarding a fatal explosion that occurred in Youngstown, Ohio, on Tuesday afternoon. According to NTSB member Tom Chapman, a crew was working in the basement of a building and, unaware that the gas line they intended to cut was pressurized, cut it in an attempt to remove outdated infrastructure.

Workers smelled no gas before cutting the pipe and only realized something was wrong after making the third cut. They immediately pulled the fire alarm and notified residents and bank employees to evacuate. Unfortunately, six minutes later, an explosion occurred.

The blast severely damaged the ground floor of Realty Tower, killing a bank employee named Akil Drake and injuring several others. The explosion collapsed part of the ground floor into the building’s basement and sent debris onto the street. The 13-story building, which housed a Chase Bank branch on the ground level and apartments on the upper floors, was left with shattered windows and collapsed sections.

At this time, investigators are uncertain whether anyone in the bank heard the fire alarm. They are continuing their investigation to determine why the gas pipe was pressurized and for how long, as well as whether the cutting of the gas line was necessary for the construction work that was being performed.

Youngstown Mayor Jamael Tito Brown has stated that the city contracted with GreenHeart Construction to carry out private utility relocation work in the basement of Realty Tower, and there is no evidence that cutting the gas line the NTSB mentioned was related to this work. GreenHeart did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the matter.

As of Thursday, one woman remained hospitalized in critical condition, with further details about her injuries and identity unavailable. Three other individuals were in stable condition, while the other three were released from the hospital. The City of Youngstown continues to cooperate with investigators as the full circumstances surrounding the explosion are yet to be fully understood.