Exploding water heater injures several in Burien
An exploding water heater in Burien seriously damaged a shopping complex today, injuring several people when it rocketed into a Pizza Hut parking lot about a block away.
King County Fire Battalion Chief Doug Hudson said crews found four people dazed in the parking lot. One, a 50-year-old Burien woman with possible internal injuries and second-degree burns to her right arm, was in stable condition at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle.
The others were taken to Highline Hospital in Burien with minor injuries.
The explosion was apparently caused by the electric water heater at a video store in the plaza, Puget Sound Energy spokeswoman Dorothy Bracken said.
"The pressure relief valve had been capped, and the tank was partially drained of water," Hudson said. "It built up steam pressure. It was a steam explosion."
Plumbers had been at the building Thursday, but it was not clear if they worked on the water heater.
Bracken said the explosion damaged a gas meter and caused a leak, but that the gas was not involved in the blast. Hudson said fire crews are still investigating.
The water heater, a cylinder about the size of an oil drum, rocketed through the building's roof, over a Taco Bell restaurant and into a Pizza Hut parking lot 460 feet away, Hudson said. It did not strike anyone.
"Had there been more people in the business or anyone in the vehicles outside or had that water heater that went and catapulted outside hit someone, we'd have a much more serious situation," Hudson said.
The building at 123 SW 152nd St. in Burien, about 10 miles south of Seattle, housed a Mexican restaurant, a video store and a grocery store. Glass and bricks rained on parked cars and blanketed the four-lane road next to the building.
Some concrete chunks landed more than a block away.
"The whole front of the Mexican restaurant, the video store and the grocery store blew out," said J.D. Burtis, who works at a recreational vehicle park across the street. "They're totally shot. All the windows and glass are gone."
Nearby businesses were evacuated. Utility workers shut off gas at the building.
The complex is across the street from Highline High School.
"The windows started shaking and then we heard a big boom. We looked out the window and all these police cars were around," said Rhodell Richardson, 15.
Jose Lopez, 45, of Burien, was just getting out of his car at an insurance firm next door when he heard what he thought was an earthquake.
"I opened my door and 'boom!' and it exploded," Lopez said. "People started running out full of dust."