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Ruth Eckerd Hall evacuated after gas line cut

Almost 100 children attending camp and 130 others are evacuated after construction workers sever a gas line.

By CHRIS TISCH
Published June 24, 2003

CLEARWATER - About 220 people, nearly half of them children at a summer camp, were evacuated Monday morning from Ruth Eckerd Hall after a gas line outside the facility was severed.

Clearwater fire officials said a construction crew working outside using a backhoe severed a 13/4-inch gas line about 10:20 a.m. The crew was working on a $28-million project to expand and renovate the hall when someone cut the line on the northwest side of the building near the loading docks, said Camille Reyes, the hall's marketing manager.

One construction worker inhaled some fumes and was treated at the scene but declined transport to the hospital, said Shawn Tellone, acting district chief for the Clearwater Fire Department.

No one else was injured.

Nearly 100 children age 5 to 13 at the hall for summer camp were part of the evacuated group. Everyone was out of the building within about 2 minutes, Reyes said.

During the evacuation, the younger children played games in the parking lot, while the older ones continued rehearsal in the shade for an upcoming performance, Reyes said. The younger children were soon moved into another building so they could wait in an air-conditioned area, she said.

About 80 teachers and employees, along with about 50 construction workers, also were evacuated. The hall is closed until November while the construction project is completed, though summer camps are still held there, Reyes said.

Workers with Clearwater Gas closed off the leak at 11:03 a.m., Tellone said. Everyone then was allowed back inside.

[Last modified June 24, 2003, 01:47:56]


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