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Three Injured in Midtown Manhattan Manhole Explosion

In the early hours of February 28th, 2021, first responders were investigating smoke emanating from city manhole covers when an explosion suddenly erupted, injuring three, damaging property, and causing power outages.  

The FDNY first arrived to the scene on East 56th Street between First and Second Avenues around 4:30 a.m. to investigate smoke coming from multiple manholes. Firefighters immediately investigated the surrounding buildings and FDNY Deputy Assistant Chief John Sarrocco claimed, "The situation seemed to be under control at that point." 

Emergency crews remained in the area for several hours until 7:40 a.m., when an explosion occurred that released large amounts of carbon monoxide, damaged nearby vehicles and storefronts, and caused power outages in the area. An additional 200 firefighters were called to the scene to perform extensive searches of buildings along 56th Street. According to Sarrocco, firefighters checked all elevators and evaluated civilians in need of electricity for life support systems. 

Three individuals were injured, one EMS worker, one Con Edison worker, and one firefighter who had trouble breathing. Their current conditions are unknown. We wish a quick and complete recovery for those injured in this frightening incident. 

As Con Edison employees worked on the manholes, NYPD and FDNY officials took control of the area, cutting off incoming traffic and erecting a mobile command center.  

Residents who heard the explosion firsthand shared their experiences with reporters. Henry Smith, 17, and his mother, who live in an apartment building on 56th Street, were abruptly woken up by the massive blast. Smith compared the experience to waking up in a war zone. 

According to AMNY, Con Edison believes that the manhole fires and explosion can likely be linked to recent snowstorms in New York. The melting snow and ice mixed with road salt can get into manholes and come into contact with underground electrical wires. While this may sound like a unique situation, exploding manhole covers are generally common as winter comes to an end. 

Many New York utilities are located underground, including water mains, power cables, gas and steam lines, and telecom wires. This infrastructure has been in place for a long time and becomes more prone to damage as time passes. Extreme winter temperatures and the corrosive mixture of melting snow and rock salt make matters worse. 

It is not uncommon for fires and explosions similar to what occurred on Sunday morning to result from water seeping down manhole covers and into electrical units. The salty water can cause sparks that produce fire and gasses which can combust and cause explosions. 

While these types of accidents can be common, they are incredibly dangerous. Most manhole covers weigh close to 300 lbs., making them a potentially deadly projectile in the case of a manhole explosion. Efforts must be made to modernize the city's underground infrastructure to prevent future accidents from happening. 

If you have suffered an injury as a result of the negligence of another party, you may have a legal right to receive compensation. Contact the personal injury lawyers at Block O'Toole & Murphy to review your case. Our proven track record includes a $3,500,000 settlement for a pedestrian who was injured when he fell 13 ft. through a poorly maintained sidewalk vault in Brooklyn. 

To speak with one of our skilled lawyers, call 212-736-5300 or fill out our contact form online

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