News From Terre Haute, Indiana

August 1, 2013

UPDATE: Gas leak forces building's evacuation

Howard Greninger
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — Employees in a downtown Terre Haute office building were able to return to work about 1:25 p.m. Thursday after a natural gas leak was discovered, forcing an evacuation of the building at 6th and Ohio Streets well before offices were opened.

“The gas leak was discovered in a line going to an old furnace that was not being used. The line was capped off, but there was a leak before that cap,” said John S. Newlin, president of Newlin-Johnson Prudential Insurance, which owns the former Star Building at 6th and Ohio streets.

The gas line was then capped in a new position, closer to a gas meter, fixing the problem, Newlin said.

Bob Irwin, insurance manager for the building, discovered the leak when he entered the building about 7 a.m. Thursday.

“It smelled like rotten eggs — big time,” said Irwin, who immediately called Vectren Corp. about the leak.

“After I called the gas company, I put signs on the building” of its closure, Irwin said, after he went outside of the building.

“When they [Vectren employees] walked into the middle of the building with their meter, they said ‘get the hell out of here.’ It was too high to be in there,” Irwin said.

Only two people — Irwin and a person who rents an upstairs apartment — were in the building at the time. Seventy-five people work in the building, which houses several businesses.

The apartment renter “had just got off of work and had been in bed for two hours and it was his first day renting the apartment,” Newlin said.

“The gas meter at the rear of the building was just spinning,” Newlin said when Vectren employees arrived.

The Terre Haute Fire Department was then contacted “because [Vectren workers] were afraid of an explosion,” Newlin said. All utilities, including electricity, were shut off as a precaution, he said.

Windows on the back side of the building were opened to help ventilate the building. Meters were also set up to detect levels of gas, Newlin said. The windows were closed again once the gas leak was repaired, Newlin said.

The office building, in addition to Newlin-Johnson, houses attorney offices, a computer software firm, a yoga studio, a real estate appraiser and a wedding planner.

Tribune-Star reporter Howard Greninger can be reached at 812-231-4204 or howard.greninger@tribstar.com.