Driver Seriously Injured in Apparent Manhole Explosion

Hazmat investigation closes Georgia Ave. through rush hour

Tuesday, Jan 26, 2010  |  Updated 7:56 PM EDT
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A manhole cover flew through the windshield of a car after an apparent explosion.

A manhole cover flew through the windshield of a car after an apparent explosion.

An investigation into the source of an unidentified odor in Montgomery County closed a stretch of Georgia Avenue, making the evening rush a nightmare in the area.

Authorities investigating an accident in Wheaton reported a strange odor Monday afternoon, Montgomery County Fire Department spokesman Capt. Oscar Garcia said. At least one manhole cover in the area was not in its original position, he said.

Police who noticed the smell were investigating an apparent manhole explosion that sent a manhole cover through the windshield of an SUV, striking the driver in the face before landing in the backseat, News4's Jackie Bensen reported. The driver was taken to Suburban Hospital and then flown to Baltimore Shock Trauma with serious injuries. She is expected to survive.

Hazmat crews worked with Pepco and Washington Gas to try to identify the odor, which might be a gas leak, Garcia said.

As a precaution, officials evacuated townhouses, apartments and a church in the area, Garcia said. About 75 others were told to stay inside, Bensen reported. One person who smelled the odor and felt sick is being evaluated.

Georgia Avenue was closed between University Boulevard and Dennis Avenue, but two lanes in each direction had reopened by about 6 p.m.

Traffic backed up to Silver Spring on Georgia Avenue during the closure, and University Boulevard was swamped with delays. Police directed traffic at Georgia and University, where the traffic lights were out.

The woman struck by the manhole cover is getting facial reconstruction surgery.

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