Gas leak suspected after blast kills 1; safety measures eyed

Firefighters work at the at the scene of an explosion at a three-story building in the Borough Park neighborhood in the Brooklyn borough of New York, Saturday, Oct. 3, 2015. Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro says the explosion apparently happened after a stove was disconnected. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)
Firefighters work at the at the scene of an explosion at a three-story building in the Borough Park neighborhood in the Brooklyn borough of New York, Saturday, Oct. 3, 2015. Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro says the explosion apparently happened after a stove was disconnected. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

NEW YORK (AP) — A city official on Sunday proposed new gas safety measures after a house explosion and fire that killed a woman and injured three passers-by.

Saturday’s blast in Brooklyn’s Borough Park neighborhood happened after a stove was removed from a gas line that may not have been properly disconnected, authorities said.

“I have been surprised to learn how easy it is for someone to improperly disconnect, replace or modify the connection between home appliances, like stoves and hot water heaters, and the gas line,” Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams said.

Authorities were conducting a search of the three-story house for clues to help determine the cause of the apparent gas leak believed to have triggered the explosion, which blew off the front of the building.

The blast follows two other fatal gas explosions in recent years in the city. One killed eight people in East Harlem last year. And two people died in an East Village explosion this year.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo ordered the state’s Department of Public Service, which regulates utility companies, to launch an investigation into “the latest in a disturbing trend of incidents.”

The National Grid utility said it was assisting in the investigation.

Adams said new gas safety measures might involve requiring licensure to disconnect, replace or modify gas lines linked to home appliances.

City Councilman Jumaane Williams, chair of the committee on housing and buildings, is working with Adams to introduce tightened safety proposals in the council.

On Saturday afternoon, Shimon Fried was about five blocks away when he heard a boom.

“I just saw plumes of smoke coming out,” he said. “It was scary.”

The blast rocked the largely Orthodox Jewish neighborhood on a Sabbath afternoon.

Officials suspect the blast originated in an apartment on the second floor, where a tenant had recently disconnected a stove.

“We are told that the tenant purchased a high-end stove and they were moving out of the apartment and were going to take that stove with them,” fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro said.

Councilman Brad Lander said the tenant had moved out about a week ago.

The dead woman, Ligia Puello, was a native of the Dominican Republic, Lander said. She lived in a third-floor apartment with her daughter, who was away at the time.

Her body was discovered in a stairwell near the second floor, close to the apartment where the explosion started, Nigro said.

Three people walking by the building were hit by flying debris, and 10 firefighters suffered minor injuries. Authorities were trying to track down another person who lived in the building.

About 50 residents of nearby buildings and several businesses were asked to leave while the investigation and cleanup are under way.

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