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Methane buildup causes small explosion inside state highway garage in Pikeville

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PIKEVILLE, Ky. (WYMT) - Some scary moments for a couple of highway department workers Friday morning in Pikeville.

Investigators are trying to figure out what caused a gas explosion that sent a portion of the garage's concrete floor flying into the air.

Investigators from the State Fire Marshal's Office and Highway Department spent much of the day investigating after they believe methane caused a small gas explosion inside the garage.

It happened sometime around 6 a.m. at the garage on North Mayo Trail right next to Pikeville High School.

Mary Westfall-Holbrook says, "This is our main equipment building....where we work on snow plows, dump trucks....just all of our equipment in District 12."

Two workers, who are the safety coordinator and facilities manager, were inside the building. After making sure they each were okay they immediately called for help.

Pikeville Public Safety Director Paul Maynard says, "We immediately had all utilities shut off to the building...including gas and electric...and started to do our assessment of what had happened."

Most of the damage is contained to the floor, which the workers inside say flew up at least 3 feet in the air.

Crews dealt with high gas levels throughout the morning but eventually could get inside to investigate.

Maynard says, "Once we got the building ventilated and could remove the concrete debris from the explosion, we discovered there was an abandoned room that had been concreted over for several years. It was flooded...once we got that out we discovered this was not a natural gas leak."

Instead officials discovered a methane build up inside of that room.

Maynard says, "Anytime you have a gas explosion it is a volitile situation. In this case, it was contained but it could have been much worse."

Highway officials do not know at this point how long they will keep this garage closed but are planning to disperse the mechanics who are based here throughout the other garages in their district if needed.

Investigators have not determined what caused the methane buildup to ignite.

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