More injuries counted in Springfield blast

Posted: 11/24/12 at 5:55 pm EST      Last Updated: 11/24/12 at 10:25 pm EST

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WHDH) -- Officials are now saying at least 20 people were hospitalized due to injuries sustained in the Springfield gas explosion Friday night, including 11 firefighters.

“Springfield Fire Department sustained substantial hits last night. We had two firefighters with serious burns to the face and the head. These injuries, the physical ones, may be gone in a little while, but the emotional ones will be there for a while,” said State Fire Marshal Stephen D. Coan.

Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno commended the firefighters for their heroism.

“They risked their lives at the very last second to make sure that people were not endangered. It’s a miracle that people were not killed,” said Sarno.

Stories of heroism are being told all across town, from a gas worker evacuating employees in the building that exploded to emergency responders doing all they can to help, even when they themselves were badly injured.

Pastor Mitchell Plaud lost his entire church to the blast.

“Yesterday was a miracle, I was supposed to be at church at 5 and for some reason I stayed home a little longer,” said Plaud.

Parishioners at the House of Mercy are thankful.

“I feel bad, I feel bad, sad, because you know, thank God I’m here, I’m here right now,” said Rafael Diaz, Springfield resident.

“We passed here like 15 minutes before it happened, we didn’t expect it,” said Hector Lopez.

The investigation into what sparked this massive explosion is still ongoing. A gas service tech may have saved more than a dozen lives Friday, after evacuating the downtown strip club over concerns of high gas levels.

Investigators said it may not have not have been a fire that led to the blast, but possibly a small electrical spark.

“That could be a telephone ringing, that could be a doorbell,” said Sheila Duron, Columbia Gas.

While the full extent of the blast is still unknown, the mayor is making it clear that the city will rebuild.

“Let me tell you something, if anybody thinks we’re against the ropes and the haymaker’s coming, the exact opposite. We’re very resilient, we’ll get through this” said Sarno.

The explosion that leveled the 4-story strip club where the blast occurred also damaged 42 buildings and 150 apartment units. Hundreds of residents are displaced.

The explosion is still under investigation.

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