Angel Kuron was looking out the front window of the Spaghetti Warehouse yesterday morning when she saw a Toledo Edison worker burned on Lafayette Street as he lifted a manhole cover. Smoke was billowing from a fire in an underground electrical cable near St. Clair Street.
“He went to one of the manholes to release the pressure. As he went up to it, the cover blew off. I saw smoke. It was a big whoof of debris and smoke. He took his shirt off immediately. You could see he was red,” the restaurant manager said.
The worker, Melvin Szymanski, 52, of Kranz Road, Springfield Township, was treated at St. Vincent Mercy Medical Center. Firefighters hosed him with water after the explosion.
It was the second such incident in less than two weeks in the warehouse district.
On July 21, nearly all of downtown Toledo lost power for about three hours when an explosion ripped through a primary electrical cable under Washington Street at St. Clair near the new Toledo Mud Hens baseball stadium.
The cause of both explosions is under investigation.
Yesterday fire smoldered in a secondary cable that carries 120 to 208 volts under Lafayette, Chuck Krueger, an area manager for Toledo Edison, said.
“[The situation's] unusual and unfortunate,” he added.
He said he does not think the two explosions and fire yesterday and the one in late July are related because they occurred in different locations and in different cables. He said the cables downtown range from 1 to 20 years old. Some of the cables have been relocated and upgraded because of the stadium.
Yesterday Toledo Edison was notified of smoke coming from the manholes. It sent a crew from the company's Delaware Avenue service center. Fire crews were called about 10:15 a.m. They found Mr. Szymanski burned on his upper body.
Jennifer Lewis, administrator of Positive Beginnings day care at Lafayette and Summit streets, said the initial noise “sounded like a big boom, a big explosion.”
She said the lights flickered and the fire alarm sounded inside the building. She called the alarm company and learned there was a power outage. Then, she saw smoke coming from the manholes and called 911.
Day-care employees evacuated about 85 children. Firefighters asked them to take the children back inside because the fumes could have been toxic. The employees called parents and asked them to pick up their children because they were closing the center for the day.
Alayna Darrington, of West Toledo, said she was concerned for her sons, ages 7 months and 4 years, and was glad center employees decided to close.
“If something happened and the kids were in there, we could have lost our kids and the employees,” she said while holding 7-month-old Adrian Horton.
Parents were happy their children were safe but were upset that authorities closed the area bordered by Huron, Monroe, Summit, Clayton, and Market streets, making it difficult for parents to pick up their little ones. “We've got to walk a country mile to get down there,” said Kim Edwards, who had to park by the Erie Street Market several blocks from the cordoned area to pick up her 1-year-old nephew, Kevin Spears.
Late in the morning, firefighters checked four buildings along Superior and St. Clair streets for toxic fumes and found none, Battalion Fire Chief Dennis Facer said.
By 4 p.m. Toledo Edison crews had crawled down a handful of manholes in the area, including the two where the explosions occurred, to disconnect cables and isolate the damaged one. Crews will replace or repair the damaged cable.
Road barricades remained when the last police officers left about 7 p.m. because repair crews still were working on the cable.