LEE COUNTY, Fla. - WINK News is reporting breaking developments in the huge gas explosion that left a man in critical condition and closed Colonial Boulevard for hours Thursday. It is still causing major problems a day later. Thousands of homes and businesses throughout Southwest Florida are with out gas.
TECO held a news conference Friday afternoon. The gas company said about 8,000 customers are affected. TECO said the line was hit in one of the worst places possible to affect thousands of customers. Just more than 1,000 people were not affected. The break in the line has been repaired, but there is still a lot of work that needs to be done. They said restoration will be a lengthy process. Safety remains our No. 1 priority as we work diligently to restore service. The restoration sequence includes three key steps:
First, each customer's gas service is shut off and locked down (physically turned off and locked) by a representative of Peoples Gas as a safety precaution and as required by federal and state regulations.
Then, gas mains will be re-pressurized to the appropriate level and inspected.
Next, Peoples Gas crews will visit each customer premise and ensure natural gas service is restored, pilot lights will be re-lit and safety checks will be completed by a representative of Peoples Gas. Peoples Gas is working to restore all customers as quickly as possible.
Customers should not turn off their gas supply at the main meter. Only emergency personnel or utility personnel should turn the valve on or off. A customer may turn off the gas for individual appliances at the appliance valve near each unit but it is not necessary.
Most of the restaurants on 5th Avenue are being affected. Some are closed down, but most of them are on a limited menu. Restaurants like Pazzo had to turn people away. Friday morning, WINK News talked with the executive chef at Café Luna who said for lunch they have to serve cold food, like salads and sandwiches... and for dinner they're buying gas grills and hotplates.
There's still no word on how much business is being lost here 5th Avenue, but restaurants said it will be substantial.
A man injured in the explosion, 30-year-old Mario Santos, is in critical condition at Tampa General Hospital. WINK News has exclusive video of him arriving at the burn unit late Thursday. 50-percent of his body is burned. Officials said Santos was pulled out of the loader by his brother.