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Westwood electrical explosion injures bus driver

May 18, 2011 12:42:53 AM PDT
An electrical explosion rocked Westwood Tuesday at about 9:20 a.m., blowing out windows and sending flames and smoke pouring out of an electrical vault at Westwood Blvd. and Weyburn Ave. The blast sent a metal plate flying into a Metro bus and injured the driver.

An underground Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) electrical vault exploded. Witnesses say the power of the blast sent a Metro bus aboveground into the air.

"It lifted the back end of the bus about two feet off the ground from the power of the explosion," said James Flanagan, a witness at the scene. "The explosion, when it happened, there was a big ball of red flames and it looked the main gas tank of the bus exploded, but it wasn't."

The driver was the only occupant of the bus. He said he wasn't allowed to talk on camera, but off-camera he said he was lucky to be alive. When asked if he was hurt, he referenced his ears. No other injuries were reported.

"He suffered some injuries, percussion-type injuries, from the shockwave to his ears and head," said L.A. City Fire Dept. Battalion Chief Gregory Malais.

The explosion sent a metal plate from the vault sailing into the air. Parts of it crashed through the front windows of a Bank of America branch across the street.

"We felt the building shake. We felt something that was like an explosion," said Robin Ibrahim, who was in the UCLA Extension building when the blast occurred.

In the moments after the blast, it wasn't clear what had happened.

Minwan An was working at a restaurant a half-block away. He says his building shook so violently that he suspected a terrorist attack.

"I just ran out because I thought there was like a bomb attack or something. So I just ran out on the street," said An.

The bus sustained some blast damage to its rear section. It was able to drive away under its own power just after noon.

What caused the vault to explode was undetermined Tuesday afternoon. The LADWP was investigating the incident.


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