Cities employ hundreds to thousands of full-time workers to care for infrastructures such as roads, bridges, sewers, electrical wiring, and gas lines. However, on occasion, unexpected infrastructure failures can cause massive damage to homes and property, and even injure citizens.
This week in Queens, New York, residents of one neighborhood experienced a surprising and frightening incident when “a series of manhole explosions” occurred just before 11 pm on Sunday, blasting the covers from the utility access pits and damaging several parked cars.
Some of the explosions were captured on video and posted to social media before the police ordered everyone to go inside until the situation could be controlled. The event was most likely caused by an electrical fire which emitted blue flames from the open manholes.
One resident, Rio Yonathan, said, “It sounded like a big explosion, like a bomb. Everyone thought it was a bomb. Everyone in the building was terrified.” Another woman said, “It was very loud. It shook the whole building.”
Witnesses described how pieces of concrete or metal flew through the air after the explosion, hitting parked cars, crushing them and cracking their windshields. “The damage to the cars is tremendous,” one resident claimed. An entire apartment building was left without power, and the underground fire took the New York Fire Department 2 hours to extinguish. Thankfully, no injuries have yet been reported.
Manhole explosions such as the ones that occurred in Queens are not altogether uncommon. This month, in fact, a couple from Taunton, Massachusetts, has filed claims against their city for injuries they sustained when “an underground explosion blew two manhole covers into the air.”
The plaintiff, Richard Gonzalez, says that he was sitting at a red light shortly before 1:30 am, waiting to turn right “when he heard a bang, saw flames and watched as a manhole cover just a few feet away blew into the air.”
Although he did not complain of injuries when he was interviewed shortly after by emergency medical services, the next day both Gonzalez and his girlfriend, Kathy Escobalez, allegedly experienced headaches and vomiting. They went to the local hospital to be treated.
Strangely enough, manhole explosions are so common that they are known in the utility trade as “manhole events.” The metal discs that cover manholes can weigh between 70 and 300 pounds, yet underground electrical fires can ignite volatile gasses within the sewer and force these covers off the ground. The flying discs can cause extensive damage to both property and people. Manhole cover explosions occur most often in summer due to the high volume of electricity running through the sewers to power air conditioning units.
Trial attorneys Charles Gilman and Briggs Bedigian work to make sure cities take responsibility for any property damage or injuries that citizens may have sustained caused by failing infrastructure. To let them get started on your case, call today at 800-529-6162 or contact them online. The firm handles cases in Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Washington, D.C.