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Explosion Rocks Former Gas Station Under High Line, FDNY Says

By  Mathew Katz and Wil Cruz | June 1, 2012 10:52am | Updated on June 1, 2012 2:45pm

The scene of the explosion Friday.
The scene of the explosion Friday.
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Twitpic @jk0ng

CHELSEA — An explosion at a former gas station underneath the High Line left two workers seriously hurt Friday, officials said.

The blast at 450 West 14th Street, at 10th Avenue, happened just before 10:30 a.m., as the workers were removing a 6,000-pound gas tank from the site, an FDNY spokesman said.

"Once you get the right mix of gas and heat together, it causes an explosion," said Battalion Chief Mike Meyers. "Once the spark got to the tank, that causes a perfect storm, perfect mixture for an explosion."

Up to 20 workers were trying to remove the tanks, which should be emptied and left to sit for a long time, Meyers explained. They were trying to vacuum out the fumes of the tank when it exploded.

Fire trucks line Tenth Avenue at 15th Street Friday.
Fire trucks line Tenth Avenue at 15th Street Friday.
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DNAinfo/Mat Katz

"I heard a bang or something, but I didn't even know it was anything until the fire trucks started showing up," said Mary Carter, 35, who works in the offices above the Chelsea Market.

"It didn't seem like a big deal until then. I just thought it was traffic or something."

The explosion jolted nearby streets and buildings and left passersby, residents and workers shaken up.

"It was like a big kaboom sound and I felt the shaking," said Yo Esponsito, 22, of Brooklyn, who was on the HIgh Line. "We watched the ambulance come from above until they kicked us out."

The workers, who were not identified, suffered cuts and slight burns, Meyers added. They were taken in serious condition to Bellevue Hospital, where they were being evaluated for internal injuries, Meyers said.

Department of Buildings investigators inspected the structural integrity of the High Line and found no issues, spokeswoman Ryan FitzGibbon said. A stop work order was issued at 450 W. 14th St., the site of the former gas station, and nearby buildings — 450 W. 15th St. and 449 W. 14th St. — were evacuated, officials said.

The High Line and the buildings were reopened by 1:30 p.m.

The construction company, Justin Group Inc., could not immediately be reached for comment. The DOB was in the process of issuing violations against the company.

FitzGibbon said Just Group Inc. had the proper permits for the gas tank removal process the employees were working on.