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Investigators probe cause of gas station explosion

Posted December 16, 2009

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— State and federal investigators were at a Moore County gas station Wednesday to determine the cause of a Tuesday night explosion that injured two men.

Two workers from Charlotte-based Law Petroleum Tanks, Lifts and Piping were using a power grinder on an underground petroleum tank at the Exxon Short Stop, at 4936 U.S. Highway 1 in the Lakeview community, shortly before 7 p.m. when gasoline vapors apparently ignited and exploded, authorities said.

Moore County gas station explosion Two workers injured in explosion

Slabs of concrete buckled and caved into a crater near the gas pumps, and rocks and other debris rained down on a state Highway Patrol cruiser that was parked outside the station's convenience store.

"These slabs are probably 6 to 8 inches thick, so (the blast was) pretty impressive," said Frank Staples, safety officer with the Circle V Fire Department, which responded to the explosion.

The off-duty state trooper, who was inside the convenience store, told authorities that the fireball produced by the explosion went at least 20 feet into the air – higher than the canopy over the gas pumps.

"He said he looked up in time to see a man rolling underneath the truck," Staples said.

The two Law Petroleum workers suffered minor burns, authorities said. About 10 people were inside the convenience store at the time, but none was hurt.

Circle V Fire Chief Mike Cameron said the two men were trying to remove a vent pipe from the top of the fuel storage tank, and a spark from the power grinder ignited the remaining vapors inside the tank, which had just been cleaned.

Debris was scattered across an area 80 to 100 feet across, Cameron said.

"They were extremely fortunate because it could have really been a nasty situation," Staples said, adding that he hadn't responded to an incident like it in his 19 years as a firefighter.

Officials with Law Petroleum and managers for the Exxon Short Stop declined to comment Wednesday. Station managers said only that the convenience store would reopen Wednesday afternoon, although the gas pumps will be out of service indefinitely.

Law Petroleum has been in business since 1999. State Department of Labor officials said the company had a non-serious violation during a random inspection in 2004 that didn't involve any workplace injuries.

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  • Redneck Fun Dec 16, 2009

    This station is located on US1 right after the bypass and old US 1 come together. It is the Exxon station on the right hand side just after you cross the bridge at the end of the bypass. My brother is a Circle V firefighter and I live only a couple of miles from the store. It was a crazy scene last night, and there was a large crew working there this morning.

  • Panther Dec 16, 2009

    Both of the workers from Law Petroleum need to go buy a lotto ticket, I'm glad to here their still alive!!!

  • shc0729 Dec 16, 2009

    Anyone know the condition of the 2 employees of Law Petroleum today? What appeared to be minor injuries on the scene could have been worse. The local newspaper quoted that one of the men was lifted 12-13 feet by the force of the blast and landed approximately 20 feet away from the blast site. Sounds like that could have caused more than minor injuries. Hope both are ok.

  • hollylama Dec 16, 2009

    Isn't that what happened at the Conagra plant. Gas vapors seeped into a room and a spark caused the explosion...

  • oldrebel Dec 16, 2009

    gerbil...I believe it's the station on "Old US 1" right there where Camp Easter Rd. turns and goes by Crystal Lake (Lakeview)

  • pappy1 Dec 16, 2009

    Headline - "Investigators probe cause of gas station explosion"

    If you read the article - it tells the cause!

    Thanks goodness the workers are going to be ok.

  • blondectryrose Dec 16, 2009

    i work about next door... my supervisor was outside when it happened..one of the men injured was actually blown out off the hole he was in..

  • Gerbil Herder Dec 16, 2009

    Hey OR, I know you are from down that way, isn't that the area that the US 1 bypass actually bypasses now? Near Cameron?

  • oldrebel Dec 16, 2009

    Wow...Sounds like those workers and people in the store were extremely lucky!

  • WhatWereOnceVicesAreNowHabits Dec 16, 2009

    Gasoline Vapors + Sparks = Explosion

    Go Figure