Former Tulsan Describes Chaos After Harlem Explosion

Wednesday, March 12th 2014, 11:54 pm
By: News On 6

An explosion in Harlem levels two apartment buildings, killing at least 3.

Nine occupants are still unaccounted for.

More than 60 people were injured in the gas explosion.

Firefighters in Tulsa watched the reports closely, but one former Tulsan who now lives in Harlem, watched it unfold first hand.

Snapshot after snapshot from native Tulsan Tommy Parker, show a first-hand account of the devastation in Harlem.

"I heard the explosion at my apartment which is quite a ways away," Parker said. "This happened in west Harlem and I live in east Harlem."

He said he grabbed his camera and headed to the scene - describing what he saw as surreal.

"I overheard a lot of people talking how it reminded them of 9/11 with all firefighters trying to pull the rubble," he said.

Windows were smashed and firefighters piled on top of one another working tirelessly to get to any possible victims.

Capt. Rick Blevins and his company -- Engine 5 -- are specially trained for the kind of emergencies like what happened in Harlem.

He says those crews in New York are doing a lot more than just digging through rubble.

"First and foremost it is about safety and we worry about electrical and natural gas and any hazards like that," Blevins said.

Then, Blevins said, the focus switches to the walking wounded and anyone possibly trapped.

"Then it gets into splitting the scene into different divisions, but you need to analyze debris because you don't want any shifts in loads," he said.

And as crews did exactly that in Harlem Wednesday - Parker says he witnessed a lot of people grateful to be alive but obviously shaken.

"I saw a lot of tears people all over the place not knowing what going on," Parker said.