Personal Injury

Gas explosion at Calif. business kills one, severely burns another

An explosion blew the roof off an industrial building housing a metal working shop in South Los Angeles early Friday morning, killing one person and seriously injuring another. Investigators suspect somebody within the business tampered with the gas lines Thursday after the gas service was shut off for nonpayment.

One victim, identified as Jaime Lara, the owner of the metal-coating company JL Spray, was inside the building and was hurled onto the street by the force of the blast. The other victim, described as a 35-year-old male, was on the street when the explosion occurred, but raced to move his truck away from the burning building and was electrocuted by a 34,500-volt downed power line that had made contact with the vehicle. The man was taken to a downtown Los Angeles hospital in critical condition but later died of his injuries.

About 100 firefighters fought the blaze for half an hour before they were able to extinguish it. Search-and-rescue K-9 units entered to search for anyone who might still be trapped in the building but found nobody.

The cause of the blast remains under investigation, but authorities have found that gas service was cut off at JL spray on Thursday because the business failed to pay its monthly bill. The outside meter had been modified so the gas would bypass the regulator and flow into the building at a powerful rate.

Investigators say the building exploded when workers arrived early Friday morning and turned propane furnace on. They believe the business owner may have manipulated the gas lines in an effort to keep the shop open.

Mr. Lara was taken to California Hospital Medical Center in downtown Los Angeles with severe burn injuries.