A manhole cover likely propelled by exploding sewer gas ripped into a car on a busy Sleepy Hollow street Monday afternoon, throwing the vehicle some 25 feet into the oncoming lane and injuring the driver, fire officials said.
The incident happened at 1:42 p.m. in the vicinity of 245 N. Broadway (Route 9), Sleepy Hollow Assistant Fire Chief John Korzelius said. Investigators are looking at the possibility that sewer gas built up in a Sleepy Hollow Department of Public Works sewer line and was ignited when a Volvo SUV driving over the manhole dropped a spark, he said.
The manhole cover was blown 20 feet, according to Korzelius. The car, which was headed southbound, was lifted into the air by the blast and thrown 25-30 feet into the northbound lane, spinning 360 degrees before coming to rest.
The car's lone occupant, a Sleepy Hollow businessman in his 40s whom authorities declined to identify, climbed out of the car in shock and collapsed on a curb, Korzelius said. The man was taken by Sleepy Hollow EMS to Westchester Medical Center in Valhalla. He complained of neck and back pain and was likely to be held overnight for observation, but his injuries were not considered life-threatening, Korzelius said.
The car had its windshield smashed by the flying manhole cover and its air bags deployed, News12 reported.
No one else was injured and no other cars were damaged.
The incident could have been much worse, Korzelius said. Just a few minutes before the blast, a tanker truck carrying liquid nitrogen and other chemicals broke down about 100 yards up the street from the manhole.
"We were lucky," Korzelius said. "And we're lucky school is out, too. That's usually a very busy crossing."
John Paulding Elementary School and Sleepy Hollow Middle School are both within walking distance of the explosion site.
What caused the gas buildup was still under investigation late Monday afternoon, according to Korzelius.
"Maybe a clog in the line, we're not sure," he said. "But it's not uncommon to have a gas buildup. It's not common, but it's not uncommon either."
Village Department of Public Works employees flooded the sewer line to clear any blockages and remained on the scene late Thursday afternoon, Korzelius said.
North Broadway was closed between Beekman Avenue and Depeyster Street, about a three-block stretch, for about an hour and a half as authorities worked the accident scene.
A call to the Sleepy Hollow Department of Public Works wasn't immediately returned Monday.