Support Salvation Army California Wildfire Relief

Witness to gas line explosion calls officers actions heroic

This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

MARYVILLE, IL (KTVI) – Maryville investigators say a massive fireball and multiple explosions were the result of a construction accident involving a natural gas line.  One worker was seriously injured Wednesday afternoon.  He was transported to a hospital, but his condition is not known.

“We determined that it was caused by a piece of equipment hitting the gas line,” said Maryville Fire Chief Kevin Flaugher.

The fire was at a construction site for a new neighborhood along Route 162, about a mile west of Route 159.

The fire departments credits Ameren Illinois for shutting off gas in the area quickly, allowing firefighters to douse flames that rose from construction equipment and workers’ cars.

The first police officers on the scene did what they could to help the injured worker.  One witness says the response from Maryville Police Officer Justin Krausz was heroic.

“When he arrived at the scene, he literally called for help and ran full speed towards the flames to pull the victim further to safety,” said Harrison.   “There were explosions going off, and the flames are easily 75 to 100 feet in the air.”

Harrison stood several hundred yards behind Krausz, and was still able to feel the heat from the fire.

Krausz said he notified his dispatch once he noticed the burn victim coming out of the fire.

“Sgt. Ponce assisted me and carried him out,” said Krausz.

“He was able to walk surprisingly on his own,” said Maryville Police Sgt. Brandon Ponce.

“He had told Officer Krausz about other people that could possibly be up there, so our first thought was we need to go see if we can get more people out,” said Ponce.  “We got as close as we could before it got too intense for us to get any closer.”

Krausz says it was a combination of training and instincts that kicked in at that moment.

“As far as instincts go, you’re always wanting to get in there and help.”