Survivors describe explosion in East Harlem

Sarah Wallace interviews a man who witnessed the East Harlem Explosion
March 13, 2014 3:59:57 AM PDT
Many people in the neighborhood felt and saw the explosion that destroyed two buildings in East Harlem Wednesday morning.

Colin Patterson lived at 1646 Park Avenue, and worked there as a technician for Absolute Piano, the business on the ground floor.

Patterson said he was watching TV when the blast happened, and the pianos he worked on exploded around him and went flying.

Somehow, he survived, crawling his way to safety.

"Just watching TV and a boom like you can't imagine and that was it. No time to think, expect, or analyze, it happened too fast," said Patterson.

"They flew off the ground and for me to get out I had to get around them, they were on their side, and I'm right there and everything is around me and I'm not hurt."

Asked about his neighbors in the building, Patterson said, "I have no clue about who could have made it and who didn't. I know most people were at work, that I know for sure."

Patterson suffered just scratches, and was treated and released from the hospital.

The two five-story buildings on Park Avenue at 116th Street were reduced to a burning heap of broken bricks, wood and metal.

"It felt like an earthquake had rattled my whole building," said Waldemar Infante, a porter who was working in a basement nearby. "There were glass shards everywhere on the ground, and all the stores had their windows blown out."

A resident of the one of the buildings, Eusebio Perez, heard news of the explosion and hurried back from his job as a piano technician.

"There's nothing left," he said. "Just a bunch of bricks and wood." He added: "I only have what I'm wearing. I have to find a place to stay for tonight and organize what's going to be my next steps."

One woman owns a beauty salon on 116th Street. "I heard a big boom, the ceiling of my salon fell, and all the girls and me ran outside," she said. "We saw the fire, just going up in flames. It was unbelievable. I thought it was an earthquake at first."

A commuter was waiting for her Metro-North train when the blast happened, and took three pictures of the scene.

"I have never experienced something like that in my life, so for me, I was panicked," said Tara Bedard.

She felt the platform shake beneath her feet. "I heard the conductor yell, 'Stop the train'", she said. "We weren't sure if it was safe to leave, or better for us to stay."