The Chronicle (of Willimantic)
MANSFIELD - Six people were injured, two critically, and approximately 25 evacuated after a gas explosion in the kitchen of the Spring Hill Inn of 957 Storrs Road in Mansfield this evening.
The explosion happened at 4:45 p.m., Mansfield Fire Department Chief Fran Raiola said, 15 minutes before a wine-tasting event was to begin at the inn.
Raiola said there was no sustained fire from the explosion and there was minimal fire damage to the building.
“The response from our department as well as our mutual aid partners was critical,” Raiola said. “All of those departments come to our aid and we tend to work pretty well together during such events.”
According Raiola, six people were evaluated and five transported to hospitals.
Raiola said one person was flown via Life Star helicopter to the burn unit in Rhode Island Hospital in Providence, one patient was transported to Hartford by an ambulance and three more to Windham Community Memorial Hospital in Willimantic.
“We are fortunate, it could have been worse.,” Raiola said. “We did a good job taking care of everybody and transporting them to the hospital.”
Raiola said the cause of explosion is unknown and both the Mansfield fire marshal’s office and state fire marshal’s office are conducting an investigation.
Apart from Mansfield, fire departments from University of Connecticut, Willimantic, Ashford and Willington assisted at the scene, along with Ambulance Service of Manchester paramedics.
The Spring Hill Inn was rented out for a fundraising event organized by Windham Area Interfaith Ministry in Willimantic, which included wine-tasting, a silent auction and other activities.
Karen Haverly, of Coventry, who arrived to the event around 4:20 p.m., said at least 80 people were expected to attend, with a possibility of more buying tickets at the door.
“I don’t think I registered what it was until people yelled ‘get out,’” Haverly said about the incident.
Haverly’s husband, Rick Haverly,of Coventry, who is on the board of directors of WAIM, said “it was scary thinking about it afterward.”
“I just saw a flash and heard a loud boom and someone telling us to get out,” Haverly said. “We moved out fairly quickly.”
The Haverlys said the kitchen workers were the ones injured, but they were conscious and alert.
Rick Haverly said kitchen workers were hired from Cafemantic, a café on Main Street in Willimantic, and the owner along with staff were at the event.
The Haverlys were one room away from the kitchen, where the explosion happened, and weren’t injured.
The road was closed for about two hours and it was reopened before 7 p.m.
The inn, which used to be known as the Altnaveigh Inn, is located a couple of miles from the University of Connecticut campus.