Local News

Section Of Downtown Raleigh Back To Business Following Gas Leak

Posted June 3, 2004

— Downtown Raleigh was back to business as usual Tuesday after a gas-line break closed the 200 block of West Martin Street and forced the evacuation of several buildings.

It all started when 69-year-old Earline Fox was trying to park her van in a space in front of the Berkeley Cafe around 11:45 a.m. She hit the gas pedal instead of the brake and drove her vehicle right into a gas line.

Fox was not injured, but was shaken up.

"I'm so nervous," she said. "I hit a gas line and everything.

"I had to drive up because I was too close to the lady behind me. I had to hit the gas to drive up a little. But when I got read to stop, it just took off."

Berkeley Cafe owner John Bloomquist heard the van clip the gas line.

"We were sitting inside, and my cook was in the kitchen, and the grill was on," Bloomquist said. "We head an explosion -- just pssssssss..."

Said Fox: "They kept telling me: 'Get out of the car. Get out of the car. Lady, get out of the car.'"

Fox got out of her van just as dozens of other people got out of the buildings, running from a potentially dangerous situation.

"I wasn't exactly sure (what it was)," Berkeley waitress Erica Pippen said. "We ran out the back door."

The fire department sealed off the block. Traffic was backed up on McDowell Street and the surrounding streets.

Blomquist warned other businesses.

"Just running up and down," he said, "telling people to get out of the buildings, the Western Union, and clearing them out, getting them out of here, trying to make sure everybody was safe in case there was an explosion."

There was no explosion and no injuries. But the incident also meant there would be no business from the lunchtime crowd.

The scene was cleared and considered safe just before 1 p.m., at which time everyone who had been evacuated was allowed back inside their buildings.

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