2 workers digging up backyard fuel tank killed in explosion

AP News
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Posted: May 07, 2015 6:04 PM

HASTINGS-ON-HUDSON, N.Y. (AP) — Two workers digging up a fuel tank in a suburban New York backyard were killed in an explosion Thursday, authorities said.

No other injuries were reported, and the 900 or so pupils at a public school campus across the street were safe, officials said.

The names of the workers were not immediately made public. Hastings-on-Hudson police Sgt. John DeBlasio said the cause was not known, and the type of fuel in the tank had not been established.

"Something blew up, we don't know exactly what," he said. He said the state Department of Environmental Conservation and the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration had joined the police investigation.

Kevin Ettinger, an 82-year-old retired teacher who lives two doors down, said he was on his porch reading a newspaper when he heard "this tremendous explosion."

"I've really never heard anything like it in my life," the Navy veteran said.

"I could see flame, apparently the fuel tank," he said. "It apparently blew high in the air and 50 feet across the backyard into this woody area."

Ettinger said he rushed to the scene and saw the tank.

"It looks very old, crumpled, old and empty, there was no oil stains or anything," he said.

He said he saw police officers trying to resuscitate the two men, who were face-down and motionless.

Overhead footage from WABC-TV showed a neatly dug hole in the ground near a house, apparently where the tank had been, and the tank itself some distance away, beyond some lawn chairs.

Hastings-on-Hudson Mayor Peter Swiderski said there was no property damage. Ettinger said, "The garage of the house, 2 or 3 feet from the hole, was untouched, it looked like."

Hastings High School and Farragut Middle School share a campus across an intersection from the blast site. Jeanine Genauer, a spokeswoman for the Hastings school district, said nearby streets were closed and clogged with emergency vehicles.

The district sent parents and guardians a message saying students and staff were safe. Students were dismissed at the usual time.

Hastings-on-Hudson is north of Manhattan and has about 8,000 residents.