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Thursday, February 7th, 2008

Explosion rattles city

By Shelley Grieshop
An explosion Wednesday afternoon outside the former Mersman Furniture factory in Celina rattled windows in nearby homes and the nerves of residents in the neighborhood.
No injuries were reported when a 500-gallon drum or tank filled with chemical vapors was pierced accidentally by the "tooth" of an excavator bucket at 1:14 p.m.
The excavator operator was moving the 5-foot-tall by 3-foot-wide tank to another location in the yard when it was pierced, said Dave Milam, project manager for CRS Demolition of Louisville, Ky. The company is emptying and tearing down the former furniture plant.
"There must have been a spark and it just blowed," Milam said. "It made one hell of a loud noise. I thought for sure I was going to come around the corner and find someone blown to pieces. I thought someone surely got killed."
The side of the drum split open upon exploding but didn't damage anything else in the fenced-in work area that spans three city blocks.
The equipment operator was the only one in the immediate area - close to Brandon Street - and was protected by the cab, he said.
Celina Fire Department and police were dispatched to the scene to investigate. Officials believe the tank was filled with lacquer fumes. While on the site, fire officials advised the crew to move burn barrels, used to keep workers warm, from the immediate work site.
Milam, who was visibly upset by the event, said his crew of six have stumbled upon similar items inside the building.
"We've found quite a lot of things like this since we started," he added.
Several nearby residents from a two-block radius of the worksite called 911 or Central Dispatch to report hearing a loud noise that shook their home.
Samuel Paul Jr., a resident of Brandon Street, said the blast sent him heading for the door of his house.
"I was on the Internet in my room when I heard it. Yeah, it shook the whole house," he said. "The first thing I thought was someone hit our house with a car."
Paul, 32, said he and his father tried to report the incident but discovered their phone lines were out. However, with recent storms in the area, he wasn't sure if the jolt from the explosion actually caused the phone problem.
Additional online stories on this date
A state of emergency has been declared for Mercer and Auglaize counties following heavy rains this week that caused extensive flooding.
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A local night club's recent appeal of an alleged smoking ban violation has opened up a can of worms for health officials who are struggling to follow the vague wording of the new law. [More]
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