Copper theft apparently damaged gas line before Prince George, B.C., explosion: RCMP

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Investigators have found evidence a copper pipe theft damaged a natural gas line prior to the explosion that shook downtown Prince George, B.C., last month.


Three people were hospitalized when the blast erupted inside an abandoned building near Fourth Avenue and Dominion Street on Aug. 22, shattering nearby shop windows and sending debris flying into the streets.


After weeks of investigation, Prince George RCMP shared preliminary findings on the cause of the explosion Thursday, revealing “multiple unauthorized people” had apparently broken into the property the previous night.


One of the suspects appears to have ignited the explosion inadvertently, unaware there was a buildup of natural gas inside the building, authorities said.


“This investigation is incredibly complex and it will take time before investigators can make any further determinations, but we felt an update into the status of the investigation was necessary as so many people in our city were affected by the events of that morning,” said Cpl. Jennifer Cooper, of the Prince George RCMP, in a news release.


Firefighters suspect a copper theft had damaged at least one gas line before the blast, but it’s unclear when that might have taken place.


The explosion rang out around 7 a.m., causing panic in the city’s downtown. Witnesses Katherine Saunby, who co-owns the Daydream Donuts CafĂ©, described a scene of fire and smoke, with people “running everywhere.”


“You heard the roar of it and you felt the building shake at the same time,” Saunby told CTV News after the incident. “Some of the things fell off the shelves in the shaking.”


Paramedics transported two patients to the University Hospital of Northern B.C. after the blast, and a third was dropped off by a member of the public, according to officials.


One of the patients was critically injured while the other two were in “fair condition,” Northern Health said at the time.

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