Two Workers Killed in Mich. Furniture Store Blast

WAYNE, Mich. --

Wayne Mayor Abdul Haidous declared a state of emergency on Wednesday evening after a furniture store exploded, killing two people and seriously injuring another.

The explosion happened just after 9 a.m. on Wednesday inside William C. Franks Furniture, which is at 2945 S. Wayne Road.

After hours of searching, firefighters and search and rescue crews found store employee James Zell and a female employee dead in the rubble, sources said.

Police said they believe only three of the store's 18 employees were inside the building during the explosion.

City Manager John Zech said the store's owner, Paul Franks, was pulled from the rubble and rushed to the University of Michigan Hospital with severe burns.

Franks was in critical condition Wednesday afternoon. Zech said the store owner was in stable but serious condition on Wednesday evening.

Police said Zell and the store's secretary were inside the store with Franks when the explosion occurred.

Local 4 has learned that a store employee called Consumers Energy after smelling gas in the area. A Consumers Energy worker did confirm a gas leak and had just called it in when the blast happened.

“Our worker did smell gas and had requested some additional assistance. He was a couple of blocks away when the explosion occurred,” a representative for Consumers told Local 4 at the scene.

The blast shattered windows of nearby businesses and cars. Reports of people hearing the boom and feeling the ground shake came in from communities as far as five miles from the scene.

Consumers Energy officials turned off gas to the area.

"It's a sad day in the city of Wayne," said Mayor Haidous.

Several streets surrounding the store were closed. They include Wayne Road and Michigan Avenue, Glennwood at South Wayne Road and Sims at Wayne Road.

The William C. Franks furniture store has been a family owned business in Wayne for 44 years.

Several people Local 4 talked with said the store, and the Franks family, are a staple in the community.

A former store employee whose husband has worked at the store for 18 years said she considers the Franks family more than just employers.

“They are like family,” she said. “Our prayers go out to their family because they’ve been there for us just like family … it really hits home.”

The city used a facility at Annapolis Street and Howe Road as a warming center for people affected by the gas main shutoff. They evacuated homes within a four-block radius of the explosion site -- and also City Hall-- and took them to the facility.

City officials said the evacuations are a precaution because of any possible secondary gas leaks.

The Salvation Army is also in Wayne, providing food and water to rescue crews.

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