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North Bend explosion: Witnesses describe their ‘worst experience ever’

The North Bend explosion early this morning is being described by witnesses as “the worst experience ever.” Two witnesses who were asleep in their North Bend two-level apartment at the time of the explosion, say that they heard “one big explosion and a second smaller one,” reports the The Seattle Times on April 25. “The explosion woke me up and the whole building shook for a few seconds. I thought it was an earthquake at first,” said Tony Marchetti. When he and Kristin Sherron looked outside, they saw the barber shop across the street completely engulfed in flames.

North Bend explosion: Witnesses describe their ‘worst experience ever’
Credit: KING 5 viewer via KTVB

The explosion in North Bend in Washington occurred around 3:45 a.m. at a strip mall that included a pizza restaurant, barber shop, dance studio, and a 76 gas station. It is believed that the blast was a natural gas explosion that centered either in the pizza restaurant, which was undergoing renovations, or the barber shop. Besides destroying the barber shop, the pizza place and an office building, the blast damaged several other buildings and tossed debris more than a block away. An assisted-living facility had its windows shattered, and the explosion knocked out electrical services to 1,500 homes and businesses.

Despite the massive physical damage, residents report only minor injuries including cuts from broken glass. “We were very fortunate, considering,” said the assistant–living facility’s administrative assistant Chuck Beatty. “This is going to be a huge clean-up. A lot of stuff was knocked to the floor: mirrors, furniture, artwork. And they’re mixed in with broken glass so we have to be very careful.”

According to the gas station manager, he had arrived at his business around 3:30 a.m. when he heard fire alarms going off first. Josie Williams, a spokeswoman for Eastside Fire and Rescue, said that it appears that the fire started before the explosion happened. Between 75 to 80 firefighters rushed to the scene to battle the fire while utility crews immediately cut off the gas line to the area that was burning.

When firefighters arrived at the scene, fire alarms and car alarms were filling the air. As seen in the video, one of the buildings was reduced to a pile of wood, broken glass and other debris while another building had turned into a charred and smoking monster. A third building was knocked off its foundation and sections of it were blown apart. Because the explosion happened so early in the morning, residents and customers were not in the immediate area, and firefighters found no victims in the rubble.

The explosion on East North Bend Way was heard by residents around 3:45 a.m., reports KIRO Seattle. Don Baunsgard, who lives in the apartment building across the street, said that the blast blew out his kitchen window and knocked pictures of the walls. “It felt like a wave came in and went out and I thought, ‘What the hell is this?’”