Buildings Dept. Blames Improper Storage Of Compressed Gases For Blast

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — One person has been injured after an explosion rocked a midtown Manhattan building early Thursday morning.

Fire crews rushed into the Viceroy Hotel at 120 West 57th Street after the explosion shook the building shortly before 7 a.m.

“There was a large explosion, the glass was shaking,” witness Sean Brown said.

Sources said a construction worker used a torch instead of a flashlight to see his way to the combination lock on a tool box, not knowing a canister of flammable gas was being stored inside, CBS 2’s Kathryn Brown reported.

The flame sparked a powerful explosion that could be felt 27 stories high, Brown reported.

“I got two phone calls to come down, there was an explosion,” witness John Piepoli said. “I gotta get out, obviously.”

“It felt like a real big thump when it hit,” said witness Joe DeJesus, who was in the elevator at the time of the explosion. “That’s when we just kept going down all the way and we just ran out of the building.”

Witnesses said the first floor was filled with so much smoke and dust they had trouble finding their way out.

One person was injured in the blast. Witnesses said he was closest to the explosion when it happened.

“He was the one that caught the explosion and it hit him in the face, knocked him down and they took him away,” witness Hector Rodriguez said.

A construction permit was issued for the building on June 19.

The Department of Buildings cites improper storage of compressed gases as the cause of the explosion and has issued a partial stop work order, CBS 2 reported.

Fire officials and police spent several hours examining and photographing canisters outside the building while investigators assessed the stability of the structure before allowing workers and union officials back inside.

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