Fuel tank that exploded, killing 2 workers, may have held gasoline, police chief says

HASTINGS-ON-HUDSON, N.Y. – A fuel tank that blew up in a suburban New York backyard, killing two labourers, likely held gasoline rather than heating oil, which is much less explosive, police said Friday.

Hastings-on-Hudson police issued a statement saying hazardous materials experts detected what they believed was the odour of gasoline at the scene of Thursday’s explosion.

Village Police Chief Anthony Visalli said as a result, the “working theory” is that gasoline vapours in the tank ignited when the workers cut into it with a saw.

“That’s not likely with home heating oil,” the chief said. Underground tanks are more commonly used for heating oil.

The workers were excavating the tank when the explosion occurred. The blast threw one worker 25 feet, the chief said. The tank itself flew 75 feet.

The workers were identified Friday as Mora Segundo, 50, and Luis Jacho, 52, both of Ossining.

There were no other injuries. A public school complex near the scene went into lockdown, but the 900 pupils were unharmed.

Visalli said the legality of having gasoline in the tank could depend on when it was installed and whether it was still being used for gasoline storage. He said there is a strict protocol for tank removal and the contractor was experienced and licensed.

The state Department of Environmental Protection took soil samples from the hole where the tank had been and should be able to determine what the tank held, he said.

The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration is also investigating.

About 8,000 people live in Hastings, which is north of New York City.