BROOKLYN — A man out walking his dog was injured when a manhole exploded near Prospect Park on Monday morning, sending the large metal cover soaring into the air and hitting him in the head, officials and witnesses said.
The manhole on Prospect Park West near Fifth Street blasted open suddenly at about 11:25 a.m. in a potentially weather-related explosion that echoed at least 10 blocks away, shattering windows and leaving two people injured, the FDNY and officials said.
The man who was hit in the head by the manhole cover was taken to Lutheran Medical Center with minor injuries, the FDNY said. He was identified Monday afternoon as Salvatore Grillo, 71, of Park Slope, a police source said. A woman was injured after the windows broke in her nearby apartment, and she was taken from the scene in a stretcher, the FDNY said.
► WHY ARE THERE SO MANY MANHOLE FIRES?
Harold Davis, a local resident, was standing on the corner of Fifth Street and Prospect Park West right next to Grillo just before the explosion. Grillo pointed out one of several smoking manholes on the block.
"He said, 'Let's get out of here before it explodes,'" Davis recalled.
Just then, the manhole erupted in flame, lifting both Davis and Grillo off of their feet.
"I saw the top just blow and a big force of smoke and air just shot up. I saw him lift up and I saw him go down," Davis said. "It was deafening, the sound. He just went down."
Firefighters were already nearby responding to a manhole fire on Prospect Park West and Fourth Street when the manhole lid at Fifth Street exploded. The blast happened "without warning," said FDNY Battalion Chief Steve Corcoran.
Another witness, Bill, saw the manhole cover fly into the air and hit Grillo.
"The manhole cover blew up about 25 feet in the air and came back down and hit this guy in the head," said Bill, who declined to give his last name.
Grillo's dog, a black Lab, bolted into Prospect Park after the explosion, Davis said. He tried to chase the dog and so did firefighters at the scene, but the animal disappeared.
The dog, named Abby, was discovered about an hour later at a pharmacy at Ocean Parkway and Church Avenue, said Sean Casey of Sean Casey Animal Rescue. Abby had a broken nail and torn-up foot pads from running, but otherwise appeared alright, Casey said.
The rescue group picked Abby up from the pharmacy and scanned her microchip to find her owner, Casey said. Grillo's wife picked up the dog from the rescue group's facility on Monday afternoon, Casey said.
Nicholas Kotsonis, who owns four buildings along Prospect Park West near Fifth Street, said he was in his office nearby on Union Street when he began getting calls from residents complaining of flickering lights just after 11 a.m.
Shortly afterward, he heard about the explosion and rushed over to find 25 windows blown out across the four buildings.
"Now we're assessing the damage," he said.
More than an hour after the explosion, black acrid smoke continued to pour out of the manhole.
Con Edison dispatched crews to the scene, and a spokesman said the explosion may have been weather-related.
"A lot of times after it snows and the snow melts, salt that is put down onto the sidewalk leaks into our system and can cause fires when it hits our equipment," Con Ed spokesman Alfonso Quiroz said.
"We don’t know [for sure], but considering the weather today that is very likely what it was," he added.
One customer lost power after the explosion, a Con Ed spokesman said late Monday afternoon.
Neighbors who heard the explosion posted reports on Twitter:
Did anyone else in Park Slope hear that boom?— John Hodgman (@hodgman) February 2, 2015
Glad to get clear. #fire #Brooklyn manhole. #FDNY @ConEdison @NY1 pic.twitter.com/g7VHutqwN4— Jenna Stern (@JennaStern) February 2, 2015