New York City, NY Gas Explosion In Tavern, Dec 1970

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EXPLOSION IN TAVERN INJURES 60.

Newe York (AP) -- An explosion and fire, apparently touched off by a gas leak, ripped through a tavern opposite City Hall Friday, injuring more than 60 persons, 11 of them critically.
More than seven hours after the blaze, a fire department spokesman said five persons who normally work in the building were still unaccounted for. Neither police nor fire officials were able to determine if the five were at the scene Friday.
The fire spread to adjoining buildings and forced evacuation of nearby offices and stores. The heat of the blaze prevented firemen from conducting a search until late at night.
Police, firemen and passersby formed a human chain to pull injured and bleeding persons from the tavern, Ryan's Bar and Grill. Pieces of glass and furnishings blown from the building littered the sidewalk and street.
Fire Commissioner Robert C. Lowery attributed the explosion, which occurred shortly after 2 p.m. apparently in the kitchen, to illuminating or natural gas. Firemen capped the leak shortly before 7 p.m.
Before a search could begin, Lowery said, "at this time we still don't know if there are persons or bodies in the ruins." Police had no reports of fatalities.
A man who had been in the tavern said, "I was just sitting there and all of a sudden there was an explosion and the floor collapsed. I grabbed the bar and pulled myself up and kept from falling into the basement."
Two policemen, among the first at the scene, found a man with his clothes on fire running from the burning building. They grabbed him and extinguished the flames. The man, unidentified, was rushed to the hospital, and treated for burns about the body. The two policemen Sgt. ROBERT VALERO and Patrolman JOHN GARZINO, were treated for burns on their hands.
Joe La Femina, treasurer of the Uniformed Firefighters Association, rushed over from the association's headquarters less than 300 feet away from the explosion.
"The blast was so strong it knocked the air conditioner, the cigaret machine and other furnishings across the street," La Femina said.
"The first guy we found was out in the street."
Michael Maye, President of the UFA, said pieces of glass were blown 300 feet away.
Rescue and firefighting efforts were hampered by a crowd of several hundred office workers which gathered to watch the spectacle. Over 40 pieces of apparatus and 200 firemen were rushed to the scene.
Mayor John V. Lindsay, surrounded by bodyguards, watched firemen fight the blaze. Lindsay said he heard the explosion while sitting in his office at City Hall.
"It was very loud," the mayor said.
Dr. Leon J. Taubenhaus, director of community health services for Beekman-Downtown Hospital, said the entire emergency staff of about 100 doctors and and nurses had been mobilized.

The Post Standard Syracuse New York 1970-12-12