by Joseph Pimentel/Asianjournal.com
LOS ANGELES – A FilAm LA City Engineer witnessed the tragic events that killed one and critically injured another Los Angeles Firefighter. The explosion occured as they were investigating smoke coming out of the Water and Power Community Credit Union building last March 26.
Firefighter Brent A. Lovrien, a 10-year Los Angeles Fire Department (LAFD) veteran, died from injuries sustained in the explosion and Engineer Anthony J. Guzman sustained serious injuries and has undergone surgery, according to Ron Myers on the LAFD website.
“It is with great sadness that the men and women of the Los Angeles Fire Department share word of one City of Los Angeles Firefighter dying today in the line of duty,” said LAFD Spokesman Brian Humphrey.
A civilian was also injured but treated at the scene and released, according to the LAFD.
The LA Fire Department is conducting a “detailed multiagency investigation… to determine the exact nature of the explosion, as well as the precise cause and manner of Firefighter Lovrien’s death.
The FilAm engineer said that the first of the three explosions around the streets surrounding LAX happened around 1:30 p.m. He did not want to be named because of a pending internal investigation on the matter.
LA City engineers were on Manchester and Sepulveda constructing a traffic median widening the street when they heard the first explosion. Along the Northbound lane on Manchester, a manhole lid weighing an estimated 300 pounds blew 25 to 30 feet in the air, said the engineer.
“It was a good three or four seconds before it [the manhole cover] landed,” he said. “It sounded like a truck fell over.”
Smoke began to come out of the sewer when the LAFD and LA Police Department were called to the scene. They closed the Northbound traffic lane along Manchester.
The engineer estimates that 25 minutes after the first manhole blew, a second manhole 150 feet away exploded on La Tijera and Sepulveda.
“Fire began to come out of the ground,” he said.
He said that somewhere in between the first and second explosion a police officer informed the firefighters that smoke was coming out of a door from the Water and Power Credit Union. The firefighters then asked the engineer and police officer to escort the wandering people and employees from nearby stores away from danger.
After the second manhole exploded, the firefighters tried to open the steel door covering an electrical vault when it suddenly exploded. “30 seconds after they asked us to escort those people and, bam, we turned around and part of the building was gone,” said the engineer.
Initial reports stated that the explosions were caused by an electrical system failure. However, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) reported that the underground explosion does not appear to be related to any failures with the electrical system.
“No power outages or other electrical problems have occurred in the area,” said Carol Tucker of the LADWP. She said that the electrical system facilities in the area are operating normally.
The LAFD suspect a gas leak caused the explosion, according to Tucker.
The FBI arrived later to conduct their own investigation.