Massachusetts Condo Explosion Kills One, Injures Seven

August 2, 2010

A Massachusetts condominium exploded while under construction Friday, killing a construction worker and injuring seven others

Construction worker William Nichols, of Blackstone, died of his injuries in a Boston hospital, hours after being pulled from the rubble at The Village at River’s Edge, in Norfolk, about 20 miles southwest of Boston.

Nichols spent about an hour and a half under the burning debris before firefighters were able to free him. Four other workers who were injured in the blast were still hospitalized Saturday in stable condition.

The explosion also injured a resident and two firefighters.

State Fire Marshall Stephen Coan has not released a cause of the explosion at the complex, a community for people 55 and older. But officials say the blast was probably triggered by construction work in the basement that caused a rapid release of propane, which somehow ignited.

Town Administrator Jack Hathaway said the explosion occurred in one side of a duplex condominium where construction was being finished. A woman who lived on the other side of the duplex —which had already been completed — managed to escape. Bushnell said she was shaken up from the blast was taken to a hospital.

Hathaway said he felt the blast a half-mile away, while people in the neighboring town of Franklin reported hearing the blast two miles away.

“Right now, three-quarters of the house just doesn’t exist,” Hathaway said.

Al Rao, who works for Prudential Page Realty, the marketing agent for the complex, said the workers were in the duplex working on the heating and air-conditioning unit. Rao said the units are serviced by underground propane tanks.

“Our main concern is the health and well-being of the construction workers who were injured,” Rao said.

Rao said construction on the “active adult community” began in 2007. Forty-two duplex units have been completed. A total of 136 units are planned.

Representatives of DiPlacido Development Corp., the project’s builders, could not immediately be reached for comment. Messages were left at their office.

Lorelei Margeson, 66, who lives on a neighboring street, said she heard a huge explosion and her house shook.

“The volume and intensity of it, you get frightened. I’ve never heard anything like that before. It felt like it was right in your backyard,” she said

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