Gas line leak forces students to evacuate 16 pupils, 1 worker taken to hospital

November 03, 1993|By Mike Farabaugh | Mike Farabaugh,Staff Writer

A construction crew ruptured a 4-inch gas line serving Edgewood High and Middle schools, forcing the evacuation of nearly 2,000 students and faculty for about two hours yesterday, authorities said.

Soon after Harford County Emergency Operation Center officials gave permission for students to return to their classes at 1:20 p.m., 15 middle school students were rushed to area hospitals with nausea and breathing problems, said Don Morrison, spokesman for the school system.

Earlier, one high school student who has asthma was taken to Harford Memorial Hospital as a precaution, a school official said.

Six students taken to Fallston General Hospital were in good condition, a hospital spokeswoman said. The nine others taken to Harford Memorial Hospital in Havre de Grace also were reported in good condition.

All were released or expected to be released, hospital spokeswomen said late yesterday afternoon.

The rupture occurred at 11:30 a.m. when a construction crew widening Willoughby Beach Road at Perry Avenue broke a plastic line carrying natural gas, said Peggy Mulloy, spokeswoman for Baltimore Gas and Electric Co.

A construction worker was taken to Franklin Square Hospital after he was struck in the face by a blast of natural gas when a backhoe struck the line, said James W. Terrell, chief of the Harford County Emergency Operations Center.

Neither Chief Terrell nor police could provide the name of the man. However, Frank Moorman, a spokesman for Franklin Square Hospital, said a worker from the Edgewood site was treated and released.

Attempts to confirm that the worker was an employee of T. C. Simons Contractors, the Fallston company widening the road, were unsuccessful.

A BG&E repair crew capped the leak at 1:05 p.m., but repairs to the line were not expected to be completed until after 8 p.m., said Ms. Mulloy.

Sheriff's deputies, who helped with the evacuation and rerouting of traffic, lifted roadblocks in the area at 2:30 p.m. after students had left for the day from the high school.

Everyone at the high school, middle school and nearby Deerfield Elementary School was ordered out of the buildings. When Chief Terrell determined that the wind was blowing away from the elementary school, the Deerfield students were allowed to return to class.

County school buses were called in to carry 1,015 chilled middle school students about 2 miles southeast to Magnolia Middle School, near Joppatowne.

Red Cross officials set up a temporary emergency center at the nearby American Legion Hall Post 17 at 415 Edgewood Road, where 16 residents from the area near the rupture were given shelter.

Chief Terrell said emergency personnel went to the single-family homes along Willoughby Beach Road, Greenheart Lane and Perry Avenue, asking residents to leave until the leak could be capped.

School and emergency officials were unable to explain why the 15 middle school students became ill after returning to their classrooms.

"The air was constantly being monitored" and it was well within the acceptable range, said Chief Terrell.

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