Construction crew strikes gas line in Morgantown shopping center

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — A construction crew installing fiber-optic lines at Suncrest Towne Centre hit a 12-inch gas line on Tuesday, causing several businesses to be evacuated.

Star City Volunteer Firefighter John Hitchens said they received the call shortly before 1:45 p.m.

The building housing Primanti Bros and several other businesses, the professional buildings that house PNC Bank,, WVU Dental Care, the law firm Farmer, Cline & Campbell and the building with Tim Hortons, Dairy Queen and Little Caesars were evacuated.

Employees of Peterson Excavating, of Burnt Cabins, Pennsylvania, refused to answer questions about the nature of the work being performed when the gas line was struck. A call to the company was not returned in time for this report.

An employee of LOFT Outlet, Samantha Sabol, said someone from the fire department came in and said there was a leak but only Primatni Bros was evacuated. Two minutes later, he came back and said the gas was spreading through the sewers and the entire building was being cleared.

Sophie Mitchem, store manager for LOFT Outlet, said there was only one customer in the store at the time.

Around 3:30 p.m., the Star City Volunteer Fire Department left the scene and Dominion Energy crews started working.

Dominion Energy Spokesperson Samantha Norris said the technicians on the scene had isolated the affected gas line and made it safe. She said about 80 “commercial buildings” would be without service until later in the evening.

Jason, the head of maintenance for the shopping center, asked The Dominion Post to leave the property about 3 p.m. He declined to give his last name. He said there was a “utility problem,” the plaza was private property and the owner wanted The Dominion Post to leave.

The Dominion Post complied and observed repairs from West Virginia Route 705 until 5 p.m., at which time the repairs were still going on and the evacuated businesses appeared to still be closed.

Dave Biafora, the owner of the Suncrest Towne Center, said he wasn’t at the scene and that he only knew a sub-contractor was working to install fiber lines and hit a gas pipe.

He denied telling Jason to ask The Dominion Post to leave and said it might have been one of the other owners or “Michele,” possibly referring to the property manager Michele Krucoff.

Story by William Dean of The Dominion Post

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