Gas leak prompts evacuations at Ninth and University

Tuesday, May 13, 2008 | 6:00 p.m. CDT; updated 11:30 p.m. CDT, Sunday, July 20, 2008

COLUMBIA — A gas leak Tuesday afternoon shut down the intersection of University Avenue and Ninth Street and prompted the evacuation of area businesses for about an hour.

The leak occurred around 1:23 p.m. after a car, driven by Teresa Leatherman, 39, of Columbia, hit a parked vehicle outside the Flying Cow Shirt Company and pushed it into a Dumpster, thereby pushing the Dumpster into a natural gas meter.

According to a release from the Columbia Police Department, the gas meter was damaged, which caused natural gas to spray into the air.

Ben Parsons, manager of the Flying Cow Shirt Company, was standing inside his business when he heard the loud bang.

“It sounded like thunder without the echo,” he said.

Parsons’ vehicle, a blue Acura Integra, was the one that was hit.

Parsons reported the incident, and according to the police release, AmerenUE and the Columbia Fire Department were called to the scene. The Flying Cow Shirt Company, the MU Professional building next door and 1 UP Books, a college textbook buyback hut set up in Flying Cow’s parking lot, were all evacuated.

“We didn’t really know what happened, but the manager yelled at us to get out,” said Brandon Knoblauch, a student working at 1 UP Books. The 1 UP workers sat on the brick wall along Ninth Street worried about all of the money in the hut, while fire crews blocked off their business.

Columbia firefighters used combustible gas monitors to verify there was no natural gas inside nearby buildings. According to a release from the Fire Department, there was no fire, structural damage or injuries related to the gas leak or the vehicle accident.

AmerenUE was able to shut off the gas approximately 30 minutes later.

According to the Police Department release, no summons have been issued at this time.

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