Valdosta Daily Times

June 22, 2013

Gas blast injures 5

Explosion in restaurant causes major damage

Jason Schaefer
The Valdosta Daily Times

LAKE PARK — A gas explosion in a Denny’s at a Flying J truck stop at Exit 2 along I-75 Friday afternoon left five injured and caused severe damage to the interior of the building.

A propane line running through the ceiling of the convenience store housing both a Denny’s and a Subway exploded around 12:45 p.m. Friday, according to Steve Coats, Pilot Store Support.

Workers were installing a new air conditioning unit and shut the line off when they smelled gas, Coats explained. The explosion occurred when the line was turned back on, blowing out the ceiling and a wall, witnesses said.

A witness selling produce at a stand about 100 yards away said he heard the explosion and then watched people rushing out of the building.

Four employees, three working at Denny’s and one at Subway, were injured in the blast as well as one customer who was left with minor scratches from falling ceiling tiles, Coats said. Lowndes County emergency responders arrived on scene within minutes, and Coats believes an emergency officer was already on-scene when the incident occurred, which doesn’t surprise him.

“We have the best coffee on the interstate,” he said. “By the time I got here from the other store down the street, they were already directing traffic.”

Between 80 and 85 percent of the interior was damaged, Fire Chief Richard Guyton said on-scene. Units from fire stations 2, 3 and 10 responded to the incident as well as the Georgia Search and Rescue (GSAR) team.

The building was closed down and all occupants moved to a safe location outside while the responders worked the scene. For the time being, it appears it could have been a lot worse, according to Guyton.

“Explosions like this are not uncommon,” Guyton said. “Considering the explosions in Texas and other places, it could have been quite devastating.”