One woman was injured by flying glass, and one man was injured when he was struck in the head by a manhole cover after a subterranean blast in Brooklyn on Monday morning.
Sal Grillo, 71, was walking his Labrador Retriever, Abby, near Prospect Park in Brooklyn when smoke and fire erupted from a manhole, hurling a 70-pound manhole cover 50 feet in the air. The cover struck Grillo in the head, seriously injuring him. Grillo’s family reported to the Daily News (The News) that Grillo is expected to recover. Marge Contorno, 93, was also injured when flying glass knocked her to the floor in her third-story apartment at Fifth Street and Prospect Park West.
A Con Edison spokesperson told The News that the 11:20 a.m. fire was electrical and likely caused by melting snow and street salt seeping into the electrical system. He said everyday traffic and other vibrations likely eroded the electrical wire insulation, resulting in cracks where melting snow and salt could seep in and cause the line to smolder and even flame up. Manhole covers can eventually blow if the pressure from the smoke and heat go unchecked.
FDNY Battalion Chief Steve Corcoran, who witnessed the blast, said Grillo never saw the manhole coming and he is lucky to have sustained a glancing blow and not a direct hit. Grillo was conscious when rescuers got to him, but was semiconscious when an ambulance transported him to Lutheran Medical Center.
“It went 50 feet in the air and hit a civilian in the head,” Corcoran told The News. “It came without warning,” he said, adding he had no time to shout a warning.
Grillo’s dog ran off into the park while firefighters bandaged the wounded man’s head at the scene. Abby was located about an hour after the explosion and taken to a pharmacy at Church Avenue and Ocean Parkway, and was returned to Grillo’s wife. The dog was shaking and her paws were bleeding. Sean Casey, who runs an animal rescue operation in Brooklyn, told The News he tracked down the Grillo family through a microchip implanted in Abby.
Con Edison workers, along with 65 firefighters and 12 New York Fire Department (FDNY) cut off gas and electricity after the blast rattled buildings across Park Slope. The explosion shattered windows along the Park Slope street, mere blocks away from Senator Chuck Schumer’s apartment. Firefighters were already checking a smoldering manhole at Fourth Street and Prospect Park West when the cover blew a block away at Fifth Street, according to The News.