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The Salem Evening News Online Edition Thursday, January 04, 2001

Explosion injures three workers, knocks out power for 3,800

EVERETT (AP) -- Three workers were severely burned in an explosion at a Massachusetts Electric Co. substation here, company officials said.

The 11:45 a.m. explosion yesterday also knocked out electrical service near the downtown section of the Boston suburb, including to City Hall, a fire station and a senior citizens' housing complex. Services operated on backup power, Mass. Electric spokeswoman Deborah Drew said, until all power was restored by 11:52 p.m. yesterday.

The three maintenance workers were inside the Glendale substation when a fire and explosion occurred, Drew said. A fourth worker, outside the substation at the time of the accident, was not injured.

"I hard a dull explosion and I went outside, and I thought I saw a manhole on fire, but it was a woman," said Richard Giardina, 72, a barber. "She was coal black. She was in flames, and she was screaming. It was frightening to see. Horrible."

A Massachusetts General Hospital spokeswoman identified the victims as Stefanie Stoke, Mylene Larsen and Robert Lydon, and said they were all in critical condition last night.

The victims came running out of the building in flames, according to witnesses, and area residents doused the flames with buckets of water and their own coats.

Sam Ali's family owns a sub shop across the street from the scene. He ran into the shop to get buckets of water.

"We were running back and forth with water buckets to put them out, and other people were taking off their jackets, putting (them) on the victims," he said.

Ali went to help Lydon.

"The guy was worried about the girls. He said 'Go help the girls ..."' Ali said.

Jack Harrington, 52, lives close to the substation and was one of the first on the scene. The Vietnam veteran, who compared the fire to a napalm attack, went over to one of the victims.

"She asked me if she still had a face. She didn't," Harrington said.

The electrical service to about 3,800 customers in the Everett area was initially affected; service to about 400 had been restored by midafternoon.

An emergency generator kept City Hall functioning, with power in almost all parts of the building, City Solicitor Ronald Salvato said, adding that no essential city services were affected.

The Glendale Towers senior citizens housing complex was able to provide heat through a backup generator, but no lighting.

The Red Cross set up an emergency evacuation center, and provided food, cots and blankets to about a dozen people, a spokeswoman said.

The utility company said it would pick up the cost of moving any seniors, said utility company spokeswoman Jackie Barry.

Power also was out to some retail stores, Barry said

The accident happened during routine service at the substation, according to a statement issued by the state's Office of Public Safety.

-- Martin Thompson (, January 04, 2001

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