Propane Leak Forces Evacuation of N.H. College


Dozens of students evacuated and classes were canceled at Colby-Sawyer College on Tuesday morning after a faculty member drove over a propane valve, snapping it and sending propane vapor into the air.

More than 100 students were forced from their dormitory rooms after the crash.

"We heard a bang," said student Bryant Shields. "Then the fire alarm started going off."

Police said the driver told them his car windshield fogged up, and he didn't see the propane valve until it was too late.

"The issue that we have is to disperse the vapor so it doesn't reach an ignition source," said Fire Chief Jason Lyon. "We had to isolate the area and evacuate the dormitories and surrounding buildings."

Electricity was shut off to prevent the vapor from igniting, and morning classes in a nearby building were canceled.

"I opened the door, and all the lights were going off," said student Mike Laskowski. "I got dressed really quick and came down, and there was a ton of people out here."

Officials said the valve was too damaged to be repaired, so the tank was drained and excess gas burned off.

By early afternoon, the leak was contained and the campus returned to normal. School officials said they were grateful nobody was hurt and their emergency plan worked.

"We notified students very quickly that the dorms had been evacuated through our campus alert system, which goes out to cellphones and also email," said spokeswoman Kimberly Slover.

Police said the driver is at fault, but he won't be facing any charges.

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