Wappingers Falls gas pipeline explosion not an act of sabotage: NY police

The scene of a gas explosion in Wappingers Falls, New York on November 2, 2023. — WABC After a gas explosion in Wappingers Falls, New York, on Thursday caused a structure to fall and injured up to 15 people, police have ruled out terrorism and any form of sabotage.

Paul Italiano, the Wappingers Falls Police Department’s police commissioner, said in a statement provided to PEOPLE on Friday that first responders were called in at 12:17pm regarding a gas leak and subsequent explosion in the Brick Row area.

“Upon arrival, [an] initial responding officer encountered two children and a mother with severe blast injuries and burns. Additional victims who were working at the location were located in the immediate area,” Italiano said, adding that the Wappinger Falls Fire Department “simultaneously worked to free a trapped worker from under the rubble.”

The injured were placed in a triage area; according to Italiano, several of them were evacuated to a nearby hospital in critical condition. In addition, five first responders who had smoke inhalation and minor injuries were treated and released from local hospitals.

“Out of the 15 victims, at this time seven have been treated and released. Eight are at Westchester Medical Centre [with their] status undisclosed,” Italiano confirmed.

ABC subsidiary Authorities told WABC-TV that the explosion and fire were caused by Central Hudson contractors hitting a 3/4-inch gas service line while performing normal maintenance.

In Italiano’s statement, the police department confirmed the surrounding buildings in the Brick Row area are “structurally safe” and that “there is no danger to the public.” Residents who were displaced by the explosion were housed at area hotels.

According to Italiano, authorities do not “believe there is any criminal aspect to this case,” but the Wappingers Falls Police Department Detective Division is conducting an investigation of the incident, People reported.

Wappinger Falls Fire Chief Jason Enson commended the efforts of first responders and the community members who offered assistance during a press conference on Thursday. “This is unlike anything I’ve ever seen,” he said to reporters. “I believe they performed a fantastic job.”

Witness Marcie Ward told NBC station WNBC-TV that she felt her house tremble during the explosion. “A little boy was being carried out, burnt really bad,” Ward stated.

Floriant Shabanaj, a construction worker, recalled to CBS affiliate WCBS-TV: “We hear the exploding, it shakes the building … and then we run, with my brother, we run over here to help the people.”

In a Facebook post Thursday, Central Hudson wrote: “Our thoughts are with those who were affected by the terrible incident that occurred in Wappingers Falls including those in the residences who were injured as well as the contractors and first responders at the site.

“Central Hudson workers arrived at the location shortly after the report of an explosion to secure the area and turn off natural gas in the neighborhood,” the post continued. “We will continue to work with all authorities to make sure there is a complete and thorough investigation into the incident.”

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul also released a statement about the incident, writing: “I have been briefed on the building collapse in Dutchess County and have deployed State emergency services personnel to assist in response efforts. As the situation develops, I urge all New Yorkers to follow the direction of law enforcement and other first responders working to keep the community safe.”

“I join all New Yorkers in praying for the Village of Wappingers Falls,” she added.

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