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4 Injured in Seattle Explosion

July 28, 2001|Associated Press

BURIEN, Wash. — An explosion ripped through a shopping center near Seattle on Friday, injuring four people.

Firefighters found the victims dazed in the parking lot, said King County Fire Battalion Chief Doug Hudson. A 50-year-old woman was hospitalized with second-degree burns to her arm and possible internal injuries. The three others suffered minor injuries.

The explosion was apparently caused by an electric water heater at a video store, Puget Sound Energy spokeswoman Dorothy Bracken said. The water heater landed in a Pizza Hut parking lot about a block away.

"The pressure relief valve had been capped, and the tank was partially drained of water," Hudson said. "It built up steam pressure. It was a steam explosion."

Bracken said the explosion damaged a gas meter and caused a leak, but the gas was not involved in the blast. Hudson said fire crews were still investigating.

Plumbers had been at the building Thursday, but it was not clear whether they worked on the water heater.

Rubble from the building's facade collapsed onto parked cars. Concrete chunks landed more than a block away.

"The whole front of the Mexican restaurant, the video store and the grocery store blew out," witness J.D. Burtis told KOMO-TV. "They're totally shot. All the windows and glass are gone."

Jose Lopez, 45, was getting out of his car at an insurance office next door when he heard what he thought was an earthquake.

"I opened my door and 'boom' and it exploded," Lopez said. "People started running out full of dust."

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