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“It was scary:” Active investigation into what caused natural gas explosion on city’s south side

Explosion at Milwaukee city yard near 38th and Lincoln

MILWAUKEE -- Lincoln Avenue was once again open to traffic on the south side Wednesday following a natural gas explosion that critically injured two men on Tuesday, July 18th. Officials say the investigation into what caused the explosion remains very active.

The van involved in the explosion was still on site more than 24 hours later -- at the pump for a city-owned compressed natural gas station. Neighbors said it was a frightening scene and they're hoping the injured men recover.

Lincoln Avenue along the compressed natural gas station near 38th Street, was closed for hours Tuesday following the explosion at the pump.

Explosion at Milwaukee city yard near 38th and Lincoln

"It was scary. The first thing we looked at was the factory right down the street. It was that loud," said Pablo Ramos.

Ramos said he was among a handful of people who ran over to help the injured men.

Explosion at Milwaukee city yard near 38th and Lincoln

"As soon as I saw the first guy screaming on the ground, I knew it was something bad. He looked like he probably had burns of some sort. Definitely was bleeding from a few spots," said Ramos.

Pablo Ramos

Officials with the City of Milwaukee's Department of Public Works said the two men were not city workers.

Other neighbors say it's not uncommon to see contractors' vans stop at the city-owned CNG station to either fuel their vehicles or to fill tanks for transport.

Fire officials evacuated those within 300 yards of the explosion when it was learned Tuesday there were two other tanks still inside the van.

"That caused great concern because we had no idea what that status was. Had those also been filled? Were they damaged in the primary explosion?" said Milwaukee Deputy Fire Chief Aaron Lipski.

Explosion at Milwaukee city yard near 38th and Lincoln

On Tuesday night, the bomb squad detonated those tanks. On Wednesday, the van was still there.

For Ramos, it served as a reminder of the awful things he saw, and how fortunate he is that a broken hydraulic system is his biggest problem.

"You realize how lucky and how blessed you are to not have to go through stuff like that. It's pretty sad," said Ramos.

Explosion at Milwaukee city yard near 38th and Lincoln

Officials have yet to confirm whether the van involved in the explosion had a natural gas engine or whether the men were hauling tanks carrying natural gas.

Police said Wednesday the men are still in the hospital with what they described as serious injuries.