CNY house explosion: National Grid not saying why gas not shut off after leak reported nearly 3 hours earlier – syracuse.com

Oneida, N.Y. — National Grid is keeping quiet about why its crews could not shut off gas service to a home that exploded three hours after a stolen car smashed into it, causing a natural gas line to leak.
The explosion tore apart a home in the Madison County city of Oneida early Saturday morning, leaving nothing standing. It also damaged nearby homes. The occupants of the home and surrounding homes were evacuated before the explosion.
No one was injured. Police said Monday they expect to file charges this week against the 17-year-old driver of the stolen Toyota Rav4.
The explosion occurred about three hours after the crash and about two hours and 45 minutes after emergency crews asked National Grid to turn off the gas.
Firefighters arrived at the scene about 3:15 a.m. and quickly determined the impact had broken a natural gas line to the house, causing a leak, Oneida City Fire Chief Scott James said.
James said firefighters immediately contacted National Grid to request a crew come to the scene to turn off the gas. But the house exploded at 6 a.m. before the utility could shut off the leaking gas.
On Monday, the company declined to answer questions from syracuse.com | The Post-Standard about why its crews were unable to shut off the gas before the explosion.
Scott said firefighters were unable to shut off the line themselves because it had been severed at the meter.
A crew from National Grid arrived at the scene about an hour after firefighters notified the utility of the leak, he said.
He said the utility crew also was unable to shut off the gas and called a second National Grid crew to the scene, but the second crew did not arrive until after the house exploded at about 6 a.m., he said.
The explosion occurred as police and firefighters were stationed nearby while waiting for National Grid to turn off the gas.
Scott referred syracuse.com | The Post-Standard to National Grid for comment on why the first utility company crew was unable to shut off the gas and why it took so long for a second crew to arrive.
On Monday, National Grid spokesman Jared Paventi declined to answer questions from syracuse.com | The Post-Standard about why the utility’s crews were unable to stop the flow of gas to the broken line.
In an emailed statement Monday evening, Paventi said the company was working with fire and police officials investigating the explosion.
“Preliminary assessments indicate the vehicle directly struck National Grid facilities with such severe force that it severed the gas service, requiring the company personnel who were on scene to call in additional crews and equipment to stop the flow of gas caused by the extraordinary vehicle impact,” he said in the statement.
Police said all utilities to the home and surrounding homes were turned off after the explosion. Residents of the surrounding homes are temporarily unable to live in their homes, police said.
West Elm Street between North Willow and Fitch streets was closed from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday to allow for cleanup and assessment of the damage at the scene of the explosion. Police have asked onlookers to stay away.
“We understand people are curious, but please consider that people have had their lives turned upside down and are trying to collect the pieces. They do not want to be gawked at,” the department said on its Facebook page.
Rick Moriarty covers business news and consumer issues. Got a tip, comment or story idea? Contact him anytime: Email | X | Facebook | 315-470-3148
Related reports on Syracuse.com
Massive house blast shatters nearby windows, rains debris on homes: ‘It shook my bed’
Explosion destroys Central NY home after stolen vehicle crashes into it (video)
See moment Central New York home explodes from gas leak (video)
Watchdog/Public Affairs reporter Melissa Newcomb covers education, including Syracuse University and the city schools. For tips, contact her anytime at mnewcomb@syracuse.com, 315-679-1068, or @melissarnewcomb on Twitter.
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