Alcohol a factor in Detroit-area crash, big gas explosion

MELVINDALE, Mich. (AP) — A 24-year-old man took a wrong turn, crashed through a fence and ruptured a natural gas line in suburban Detroit, causing a dramatic explosion in the wee hours Saturday that forced the evacuation of nearby residents and even melted siding off a house, police said.

The towering fireball in Melvindale could be seen for miles in southeastern Michigan and across the Detroit River in Canada.

“I was sleeping, got knocked out of the bed,” resident Ed Bagdasarian said. “It was just a big boom. It sounded like a locomotive for about 20 minutes.”

The driver was in stable condition at a hospital after a friend driving behind him rescued him from the crash, Police Chief Chad Hayse said.

Without the friend’s assistance, “I don’t think he would have gotten out,” Hayse said. “He was burned and appeared to be going into shock.”

Hayse said alcohol was a factor in the crash, which occurred before 3 a.m. at a DTE Energy property. Police went door to door in an 18-block area to evacuate residents. They were allowed to return around 9 a.m.

The fire “started off slowly and then became larger and larger,” said the chief, who could see smoke from his house 10 miles away.

Resident Deanna Burg said the sky was orange.

“There were people everywhere, and sirens, and you could smell the gas,” she said. “I felt like our house was going to be gone as we drove away.”

Allen Road was damaged by the intense heat.

“I’m not sure just how the car made it to where it did,” DTE spokesman Scott Simons said. “In my 25 years with the company, this has never happened.”


This story has been corrected to show that the DTE spokesman’s last name is Simons, not Simon.

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