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Updated – Store Explosion, People Trapped in Michigan

Update:  Store owner rescued, seriously injured.  More video added.  Scroll down.
Update, Thursday am:  Other two people found dead late Wednesday night.  Scroll down.

A DESTRUCTIVE EXPLOSION INSIDE a furniture store in Wayne, Michigan, caused an immediate collapse of the center portion of the building.

WJBK-TV

The blast occurred at 9 am Eastern time and it is believed that anywhere from 2 to 5 people are trapped in the rubble.  The William C. Franks Furniture store is literally destroyed in what the City Manager said to be a natural gas explosion.  The Wayne Fire Department responded to the scene and the area USAR team is working the collapse.  Search dogs have also been called to the location.

Update:  A recent report says that one person has been rescued from the building and has been transported to a burn unit.

WXYZ-TV Ch. 7 Detroit has this early report from the scene:

 

The store occupies slightly more than a half-city block and has been in business for 44 years.

This is still a working incident.  Firegeezer will be updating during the day.

WJBK-TV Ch.2 has a 32- image PHOTO GALLERY HERE.

WJBK-TV images

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Update, 2:30 pm:
The store’s owner, Paul Franks is the first person to be recovered from the collapsed building.  He was found fairly soon into the operation and was transported to the University of Michigan Trauma Burn Center in Ann Arbor where he is listed in critical condition.  There are two others believed to be trapped inside, a secretary and a salesman.

The Detroit News continues:

Shawn Bell, deputy chief fire marshal for the city of Wayne, said rescuers are inside the partially collapsed store doing a systematic hand-to-hand search for the victims. He would not confirm how many are still believed to be inside.

“There’s a lot of danger of further collapse, so we have to take precautions for the rescuers in there,” Bell said.

He added that crews were using listening devices to detect any sounds from the victims as well as calling cell phones of those believed to have been inside the building at the time of collapse. So far, there has been no response.  Canine search and rescue teams were on the way, he said.

Most of the initial fires were extinguished, but there are still hot spots inside that firefighters are extinguishing, he said.

The Associated Press is relaying that the cars of the two people believed missing are parked next to the store.  Some other employees are on the scene assisting rescuers by indicating areas where they were most likely to be at the time of the explosion.

“We’re pretty sure natural gas is involved,” Consumers Energy spokeswoman Debra Dodd said. The utility received a call of a possible gas leak in the area several hours before the blast and a worker had been trying to track down the source when the explosion took place, Dodd said. She said the gas main to the building has been shut off and that another line in the area would be closed as a precaution.

 Jennifer Gietzen, 36, who co-manages an auto repair shop with her husband about a block from the furniture store, said the smell of natural gas was “overwhelming.”

Firefighters, police, emergency search crews and the Department of Homeland Security responded to the scene within minutes. They came from Inkster, Garden City, Canton, Farmington Hills, Taylor, Romulus and Dearborn Heights.

Search and rescue teams came from Oakland and Washtenaw counties.

As the day wore on, searchers dug gingerly through the rubble, bringing out piles a little at a time for dogs to sniff. City Manager John Zech said rescue crews had to approach the search carefully, in case of further collapse. Wayne Deputy Chief/Fire Marshal Shawn Bell said rescuers were hoping to find signs of life in crevices and gaps created by debris landing at angles.

“It’s a very slow and tedious process,” Bell said. “A lot of the debris removal is being done by hand.”

Fire Chief Mel Moore said the search had been complicated by the weight of the building’s concrete roof trusses.

“We’re pretty sure natural gas is involved,” Consumers Energy spokeswoman Debra Dodd said.

The utility received a call of a possible gas leak in the area several hours before the blast and a worker had been trying to track down the source when the explosion took place, Dodd said. She said the gas main to the building has been shut off and that another line in the area would be closed as a precaution. 

Jennifer Gietzen, 36, who co-manages an auto repair shop with her husband about a block from the furniture store, said the smell of natural gas was “overwhelming.”

This home video was taken in the area just prior to the first engine’s arrival:

 

This raw video just filed by WSYR-TV has an aerial view of the labor-intensive search that is underway:

 

Update, Thursday 6 am:
The bodies of the two missing employees were both located between 7:30 pm and 10 pm Wednesday night.  First found was the 64-yr.-old salesman and 2-½ hours later the female employee, reported to be the store’s secretary, was located.  Both had perished in the collapse.  The store owner, Paul Franks remains in the University of Michigan hospital in Ann Arbor, however his condition has been upgraded from critical to serious-but-stable.

The Detroit Free Press is reporting this morning:

Firefighters, police, emergency search crews and the Department of Homeland Security responded to the scene within minutes.  They came from Inkster, Garden City, Canton, Farmington Hills, Taylor, Romulus and Dearborn Heights.  Search and rescue teams came from Oakland and Washtenaw counties.

As the day wore on, searchers dug gingerly through the rubble, bringing out piles a little at a time for dogs to sniff.  City Manager John Zech said rescue crews had to approach the search carefully, in case of further collapse.  Wayne Deputy Chief/Fire Marshal Shawn Bell said rescuers were hoping to find signs of life in crevices and gaps created by debris landing at angles.

Free Press / Mitchell

“It’s a very slow and tedious process,” Bell said. “A lot of the debris removal is being done by hand.”  Fire Chief Mel Moore said the search had been complicated by the weight of the building’s concrete roof trusses.

 Consumers Energy, the gas utility that serves the area was first notified of a possible leak in the area around 6:15 a.m. and again an hour and a half later.  The explosion happened during the investigation of the second call.

The Associated Press has filed this summary video report this morning:

 

WJBK-TV Ch. 2 has provided this video report with comments by neighbors affected by the blast:

 

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WJBK-TV / SkyFox image

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