Authorities working to determine cause of Petersburg building explosion

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Brent Solomon, ReporterPETERSBURG, VA (WWBT) -Petersburg fire officials are waiting until a medical waste disposal plant is safe enough to enter to determine what led to an explosion that caused the building to collapse.

The blast sent three people to the hospital Friday afternoon. Witnesses say they saw a bystander who said he was contracted to come work on the building's boiler prior to the explosion. The Petersburg Fire Chief says it's too early to speculate on the cause.

The images alone paint the picture of the catastrophe no one saw coming.

"My leg hurts," employee Ervin Clayton said walking away from the scene on crutches.

He is a supervisor at the Curtis Bay Medical Waste plant and he's lucky to be alive.

"Next thing you know, bricks came through the back wall…A brick hit my leg and Ms. Vickie fell on top of me and another one fell on me. Ms. Vickie got on top of me and then helped me out of the building," Clayton explains.

He's one of three people who had to be rushed to the hospital.

"The doctor wanted me to stay in the hospital but I released my own self because I don't like staying in the hospital overnight," he said.

It all unfolded just after 2 p.m. Friday. Bricks came tumbling from the structure following a loud explosion.

"It was a big boom. Like a plane crash. It shook the building…The phones, the electric, the lights blinked out," said Pete Hunt and John Noggin.

They were working across the street when it happened.

That's when they met a bystander who told them ... "He said he was scheduled to go there today," Hunt said.

He was apparently going to work on the building's boiler. NBC 12 is awaiting a statement from the company.

"I was in the office. It was a loud boom and then I went out the front door," said employee Michelle Rose.

Her co-worker watched as her car got pummeled.

"A car can be replaced. She can't," Rose added.

While one lost their life, no one can forget the moment that caused so much terror.

"I thought I was gonna die. I didn't know what the hell was going on," Clayton said.

Columbia Gas is checking the premises for any possible leaks. The plant is usually closed on weekends. Employees are awaiting word if they'll be able to report to work anytime soon.

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