Top gas company official vows to help Springfield residents recover from gas explosion

SPRINGFIELD-- Dozens of residents and business owners arrived at City Hall Monday, carrying lists of personal belongings and property damaged by Friday’s massive gas explosion downtown, expenses that Columbia Gas of Massachusetts vowed to cover.

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“Our hearts are with them, particularly people whose homes have been impacted — I think that’s the part that disturbs me the most,” said Stephen Bryant, president of Columbia Gas of Massachusetts, speaking with the media outside a second-floor room at City Hall, a temporary claims center.

“If you don’t have a place, a refuge to go home to, it’s extra difficult ... We’ve impacted businesses and I think we’ll do all the things necessary to get things back to normal as soon as possible,” he said.

Bryant said the company expected to start processing claims for at least three dozen people, and may extend the claim center operation through Tuesday.

The total cost of the explosion has not yet been specified by authorities, and most claimants are not sure of the extent of their personal loss since they have not been allowed yet to return to their residences.

In a statement released this weekend, State Fire Marshal Stephen Coan’s office said the blast at Scores Gentleman’s Club at 453 Worthington St. occurred when a worker from Columbia Gas of Massachusetts — who was investigating a gas odor — accidentally punctured a high-pressure gas line at the foundation of the building.

“His examination appears to have been an appropriate distance from where older markings on the sidewalk indicated where the gas line was,” the statement said. “However, the markings were incorrect and his metal probe inadvertently punctured” the line.

The blast, which displaced hundreds of people, occurred around 5:25 p.m. Friday.

Today, William Meadows, 66, said he left his 6th-floor condominium with only the clothes on his back.

“The boom was unbelievable, and I knew we had to get the heck out,” he said. “I’m still wearing the same clothes as during the blast,” he said, standing outside the claims room.

“You know, we had that tornado thing, and I was talking to a neighbor who moved in recently after her place was hit by the tornado and she said, ‘Here we go again.’”

Meadows, a long-time groundskeeper at American International College, said of the city’s recent calamities, “It’s just bad luck, I guess. Who knows what’s going to happen next? Hopefully, we’ve already had the worst.”

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