A violent explosion tore through a Maspeth recycling transfer facility in the early morning hours Monday, severely burning one man as walls from the one-story building crashed to the ground.
New Style Recycling at 49-10 Grand Ave. was virtually destroyed by the blast, which ignited a blaze that firefighters fought for 2 1/2 hours before finally bringing it under control. Most of what remained standing was demolished later in the day.
"It was an explosion," said Joe Stanek, the operations manager for Velocity Express, a freight company two buildings down from the fire. "Everybody ran out to the bay door and we saw smoke and flames shooting up and then we heard mini-explosions."
Stanek called 911 to report the fire while his employees ran out to the scene. One of the employees saw the man who escaped the building suffering from severe burns.
"There was a man there who looked like he ran out in flames. He was burnt all over his body," said Eric Boland, a stock clerk at Velocity. "I saw his skin, that he was roasted, burnt."
The injured man, whose name was not released, was rushed to the burn unit at Weill Cornell Medical Center in Manhattan.
Three firefighters also suffered minor injuries while battling the blaze.
The Fire Department received its first report of the blast at 2:50 a.m., said Firefighter Paul Iannizzotto, a department spokesman. It was brought under control at 5:26 a.m., after 25 units and 110 firefighters responded to the two-alarm fire.
The cause of the explosion was under investigation, Iannizzotto said.
The sheer volume of the initial blast sparked immediate fear of a terrorist attack among some of the workers who were on duty in the surrounding warehouses.
"At first I thought it was a small aircraft into a building," said Boland, who immediately thought the explosion might have been part of a larger assault against the city. "That's the first thing that came to my mind."
All that remained of the building Monday evening a tangled mess of metal poles, wires and collapsed cinder blocks.
The explosion also sent cinder blocks tumbling into the street, where one vehicle was crushed beneath the weight of the debris.
Reach reporter Dustin Brown by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 154.
©2003 Community News Group
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