October 28, 2004
An explosion ripped through an Apache Junction coin-operated laundry Monday afternoon, seriously burning a 2 1 /2-month-old baby and an unidentified adult, a fire official said.
"I was looking down and all of the sudden everything was coming off the walls and the ceiling came down," said Brian Jacobsen, 39, who was working next door at a Little Caesar’s Pizza restaurant when the blast rocked the building. "We were lucky we weren’t killed. It was just a huge explosion."
Dave Montgomery, an Apache Junction Fire Department spokesman, said the 1:45 p.m. blast at the coinoperated laundry at 725 W. Apache Trail may have been triggered by a natural gas leak. An investigation is under way.
An infant and an adult were inside the laundry during the explosion, Montgomery said. The baby was flown by helicopter to a hospital in serious condition with firstand second-degree burns over 20 percent of the body, while the adult was taken by ambulance to a local hospital with unknown injuries.
Paul Grier, who was next door at a Water and Ice store, recognized the two victims as a mother and daughter who frequent the laundry, but Montgomery could not confirm the relation or even genders of the victims.
Grier, 23, cut his hand on shattered glass on the ground while looking for survivors in the burned building.
"They bore the brunt of the whole explosion," Grier said of the two victims. "It sounded like a bomb went off."
Witnesses described a blast that shattered the windows of the laundry, and also knocked in the walls of neighboring businesses.
Grier said that patrons of the laundry had often complained to the management of an odor of gas inside the business. The adult was using a dryer when the explosion occurred, he said. Employees of the laundromat declined to comment on the incident.
Mesa firefighters also responded to the call.
The strip mall was evacuated as firefighters conducted mop-up operations. Southwest Gas was called to the scene to secure gas lines. The laundry had water damage and a collapsed ceiling.