1 dead, 1 critical after L.A. explosion

Apparent natural-gas blast at welding shop collapses part of building in south Los Angeles

Published July 30, 2010 5:30PM (EDT)

A suspected natural gas explosion Friday at an industrial plastic-coating shop collapsed part of the building and hurled two workers into the street, killing one and leaving the other in critical condition, fire officials said.

The two-story wooden building in South Los Angeles was shaken by the violent explosion about 6:15 a.m. that turned the front of the structure into matchsticks. The building caught fire and 100 firefighters doused the blaze in about 25 minutes, fire spokesman Erik Scott said.

One of the workers thrown into the street was wedged under a car and had to be freed by firefighters.

There were unconfirmed reports that another person might be trapped in the building, Scott said.

Daniel Ibarra, who works at the building, said he was taking out the trash when the blast hit. The 27-year-old man appeared in shock as he leaned against a wall with a bruised leg surveying the damage.

"I was very lucky," said Ibarra, whose thick black hair was singed on top.

Jonathan Apol, 20, a welder who works in a building next door, said he was putting on his work clothes when he heard the explosion.

"I thought it was like an earthquake or something," he said.

He heard a bang followed by two more a few seconds later. He went outside and saw two dazed men standing in front of a burning building.

Firefighters were making sure the wreckage was safe before a rescue team was brought in with dogs to search.

"They are shoring up any portions of the building that may be unsecured, ensuring that the beams aren't going to fall further," Scott said.

Natural gas apparently sparked the blast but the building also contained flammable oxygen and acetylene, he said.

(This version CORRECTS Adds quotes, other details. Clarifies nature of facility in lede. Corrects spelling of Erik Scott. Adds byline.)

By Thomas Watkins

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