Author Topic: At Least 2 believed trapped in Wayne store explosion  (Read 1573 times)

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At Least 2 believed trapped in Wayne store explosion
« on: December 29, 2010, 09:29:16 AM »
At least 2 believed trapped in Wayne store explosion


Paul Franks, the owner of William C. Franks Furniture in Wayne, is in critical condition at the University of Michigan Hospital in Ann Arbor after a suspected gas explosion leveled the store, Wayne City Manager John Zech said at a news conference this afternoon.

Franks is being treated in the trauma burn unit, hospital spokeswoman Shantell Kirkendoll said.

Two other people believed to be employees are still inside the building, Zech said, but their names are not being released until family members are notified.

"It's a sad day in the City of Wayne," Mayor Al Haidous said at a news conference held early this afternoon.

The city of Wayne has opened a warming center at the Wayne Banquet and Activity Center, 35000 Sims Ave., for those whose gas has been shut off. For information, call 734-721-7400.

Howard Stuedemann, 56, was in the hardware store across the street from Franks Furniture when it exploded around 9 a.m. today, just after it opened for the day.

Stuedemann said he ran to the store at 2945 S. Wayne Road in Wayne and saw a man on fire and covered in rubble.

“He was screaming and yelling,” Stuedemann said.

Stuedemann said bystanders worked to free the man. It is unclear if that man was Franks.

Irene Yaklin was working the cash register at the Marathon gas station at Glenwood and Wayne when the explosion hit, causing signs to fall from the drop ceiling.

"I saw the fireball,” she said. “The whole building shook.”

Consumers Energy got a call about a possible gas leak between 6 and 7 a.m. today about two blocks from William C. Franks Furniture, company spokesperson Debra Dodd said. An employee was in the area responding to that report when the building exploded, she said.

The company is now working to shut off the flow of gas in a two-inch steel line below ground, she said. It needs to be dug up. Once that occurs, Consumers Energy employees can get into buildings and start investigating. They don’t have a time line on when the gas will be shut off.

The gas main services the general area, she said.

The explosion destroyed the furniture store, Zech said, adding that the roof is caved in and the glass is blown out.

Emergency responders are working to free the people inside, he said.

“As far as injuries go, it’s too early for me to comment,” he said.

A person who was driving past the store at the time of the explosion was taken to Oakwood Annapolis Hospital, said hospital spokeswoman Paula Rivera-Kerr. That patient is in stable condition, said hospital spokesman Dave Stanis.

He said the hospital was preparing for other arrivals.

“We’re kind of waiting to see at this point,” he said.

Wayne Building Official Ed Rowe confirmed that emergency crews believe it was a gas explosion. Rowe stood with his wife, Susan Rowe, a city councilwoman, near the scene.

Susan Rowe said the furniture store is a longtime family-owned business that sells high-quality furniture. Its Web site says it has been in operation for 44 years.

“People come from all around to this store. Everyone on this side of town knows Franks Furniture,” she said.

Gary Meixner of Wayne rushed to the scene after hearing the news on TV. He was checking his brother’s house nearby at Elm and Wayne.

The Beaumont Hospital retiree said the rumors keep changing among the spectators gathered at the scene about what happened, “You can see there’s real damage. This is a fact,” he said looking at the cracked windows at his brother’s house.

Jena Moughler, 35, who lives within a few blocks on Glenwood, said the explosion woke her from a sound sleep.

“It sounded like a bomb went off,” said Moughler. She said the store has been “a fixture here.”

All streets near the furniture store are blocked with yellow tape. Buildings near the furniture store have shattered glass and debris is strewn along Wayne Road.

The explosion was so powerful, Community Development Department Administrative Assistant Kim Cochran said, “I just thought the roof of City Hall was caving in. Dust was filtering down into my eyes.” City offices are just south of the store.

The office of colorectal surgeon Dr. Ganesh Deshmukh, which is across the street and slightly south of the furniture store, was open at the time of the explosion.

“It shook the whole building,” said Lori Julvezan, an employee at the office. “We thought a car had hit the building.”

She described smoke coming from the back of the building, which houses other businesses, and said the front had collapsed.

Julvezan said the office is still open, while businesses directly across the street, including Northside Hardware, were being evacuated, according to an employee who answered the phone at the store.

Ray and Tera Lefler were sleeping at their home two streets away at about 9 a.m. when the explosion shook the house.

”It felt like an earthquake. It shook everything,” said Ray Lefler, 35, of Wayne, who works in home remodeling.

Dozens of residents are milling around fire trucks and police cars waiting for news. Police are keeping residents more than a mile back from the scene of the devastated furniture store.

Ed Orzel was at home in Garden City, about four to five miles away from the furniture store. He said he felt a vibration when the building exploded.

“The guy two doors away from me said he thought a tree fell on his house,” Orzel said.

The explosion has closed down Wayne Road in the area of Glenwood and Wayne.
Neighboring fire departments assisting include Westland, Inkster, Romulus, Garden City, Canton and Taylor, Zech said.

As of noon, the Wayne County Medical Examiner’s Office said it had not received notice of any deaths, either at the scene or from a Wayne County hospital.

The Washtenaw County Medical Examiner’s Office would not release any information about notices received.

Did you witness the explosion or feel its effects? Call Elisha Anderson at 313-222-5144 with your firsthand information.

Staff writer Eric D. Lawrence contributed to this report.

Come back to for more on this developing story.
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