WAYNE (WWJ) – Thursday, Dec. 29 marks a sad anniversary in the City of Wayne, where one year ago a massive explosion killed two people and severely injured the owner of Frank’s Furniture Store.
WWJ’s Ron Dewey returned to the scene where a wreath in remembrance of the victims adorns the chain link fence at the front of the site where Frank’s once stood.
Paul Russo was inside his house nearby when he heard the explosion, saw people coming out of their homes and knew something had happened.
“As I was walking around with my dog, I smelled the gas. And by the time there were already people on the job looking for the leak, they had been here for probably an hour and couldn’t locate the leak. And by the time I got home, the big band occurred,” said Russo.
“I came down here and I saw the whole building, I mean, caved in. But there was no fire, there was just a little bit of smoke coming out, smoldering, and the fire department was here in no time. I will never forget that,” he continued.
The explosion killed clerical worker 54-year-old Leslie Machniak and salesman 64-year-old James Zell, and seriously injured owner 64-year-old Paul Franks.
The cause for the leak remains elusive one year later, as findings from Consumers Energy were inconclusive. Consumers spokesperson Debra Dodd told WWJ Newsradio 950 they’ve narrowed the blast down to one of three possible causes.
“One was that there was a broken gas line about 230 feet from Frank’s furniture store, although we couldn’t verify that because we don’t know if the damage to the pipe occurred before or after the explosion or as a result of the explosion,” said Dodd.
The other theories are that gas migrated into the sewer system from a gas main break, or that there was a gas leak inside Frank’s
Families of the victims settled out of court with the utility earlier this year. The furniture store relocated to a nearby warehouse with plans to rebuild.