Gas leak on express bus leaves cars in flames

April 6, 2012 Heather Chin
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When neighbors Mariam Khalil and Erich Wollner looked out their front doors at about 10:35 p.m. on Thursday, April 5, they were greeted by a wall of flames over eight feet high making its way up a line of six parked cars along the curb of their block, Dahlgren Place, right off 92nd Street.

“It was crazy,” said Khalil, who was at home with her family at the time and could see two of the family cars engulfed in flames. “It was like a movie. The police came and had us evacuate the house, then came in the house [and basement] to make sure the gas hadn’t gotten in.”

Less than a day after a S53/S73 express bus from Staten Island made an emergency evacuation after its gas tank was punctured by the springs from a stray mattress stuck underneath the bus, which is reported to have burst into flames, the smell of burned metal, plastic and diesel still hung in the air, punctuating the scene of cars stopped in their tracks – a row of charred and twisted metal, broken glass, melted rubber and stray debris – and surrounded by sand and orange cones.

“Even in my house, it still smells bad. I’ve been cleaning all day,” said Khalil, who said that her husband and cousins had to take the subway or car service to get to work on Friday, but were optimistic that between insurance and MTA reimbursement, they’d be fine.

No one was injured in the incident. All 25 bus passengers and the bus driver got off safely, and the parked cars were empty at the time.

“When we saw the flames, the fire department was here already,” said Wollner, whose vehicle escaped major damage by being parked in the driveway, instead of at the curb. “The MTA gave us a phone number for their claims department and the police said to call for the report [for insurance purposes].”

The incident is under investigation, according to MTA spokesperson Deirdre Parker.

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