As one family mourns the loss of a wife and mother, other families are struggling to put their lives – and their homes – back together following the natural gas explosion in Floral Park.
Ghanwatti Boodram, 40, mother of three, was inside 80-50 260th Street on Friday afternoon, April 24 when her house blew up.
“I saw the big flame and fire truck and wondered what was going on,” said Rudy, who lives two blocks down.
Rudy said he knew Boodram from Guyana. He said his son and Boodram’s son are in the same class at P.S. 115.
“The family is not doing too well,” he conceded.
Con Edison confirmed to The Courier that only an hour before the explosion a crew arrived on the scene and was checking for an odor of gas after neighbor Stanley Barth called the utility giant.
Chris Olert, a spokesperson for Con Ed, told The Courier that the crew searched the house but found nothing. They then went out into the street, he said, where they searched a man hole and found a “pretty high concentration of gas” at 80 percent.
The crew called for back up, said Olert, as per protocol, but “As they were opening the man hole the house exploded.”
The houses on either side also caught fire, destroying the upper level of each.
Olert said that only last month the block had been checked, and no gas leaks turned up. The “Leak Mobile,” he explained, checks each block for gas leaks at least once a year.
“We work to keep the system safe, not just for our customers but also for our employees,” he said.
But, following the tragedy, Con Ed crews discovered a dime-sized hole on a section of the two-inch main located where the electric conduit crosses the gas main. It has been sent to an independent lab for testing, according to Olert.
“We will also be carefully reviewing our response to the incident,” say Con Ed officials. “We are confident our crews followed procedures appropriately in trying locate the source of the leak. We will also review the entire incident and determine whether any improvements in response procedures are warranted. We have been in communication with the family to assist them in any way we can, and our thoughts and prayers are with them at this time. We are also in contact with elected officials in the community.”
However, Assemblymember Mark Weprin pointed out Con Edison’s apparent lack of emergency planning and called for a full investigation, public hearings, and recommendations for improvement, all of which should be widely available to the public.
Weprin called for the review of, and a report on, the protocols that should be followed in the event of a suspected natural gas leak. He said that Con Edison should fully disclose existing policies, practices, training with regard to gas leaks; how and why procedures were or were not followed in this instance; and what recommendations are necessary to improve emergency responses.
For Ray and Sol Paintner, who have been in the same home – only two doors down from the explosion – for 40 years, the whole experience has been “overwhelming.”
The elderly couple led The Courier on a tour of their home and pointed out the damage.
“The whole house shifted,” said Ray, who noted that they were not home at the time of the blast. “The floor separated from the wall [in numerous rooms], my mirrors fell down, my doors are broken.”
The couple’s daughters were so concerned, she said, that two of them traveled from Massachusetts to help.
Wondering how they will manage all the repairs now needed, Ray, who said that Boodram was a “beautiful, lovely” woman, nonetheless feels lucky.
“I guess God is on our side,” she said.
Boodram will be waked on Wednesday, April 29 at the Dalton Funeral Home, 29 Atlantic Avenue in Floral Park. A funeral will be held on Thursday, April 30.