Survivors retell the moments before Soulard gas explosion

Posted on: 5:50 am, February 6, 2014, by , updated on: 08:27am, February 6, 2014

ST. LOUIS (KTVI) -

“By God’s grace, everybody made it out okay,” said Kelly Greene Schnitke, owner of Four Stars Design Group.

Authorities said 22 homes and businesses lost power after the blast Wednesday. Ameren Missouri crews restored electricity before 5:00am Thursday. Laclede Gas crews were turning pilot lights on in several homes.  Because of the blast, many residents spent the night elsewhere and were not home to help get their gas service restored.

Otherwise, Menard Street near Shenandoah Avenue was still a mess.  One van had a window shattered in the back of the vehicle while bricks sat on top.

It all started Wednesday afternoon, when an AT&T subcontractor was installing fiber lines in the basement of Stars Design Group. At the time, 13 people were inside the business.

The explosions left several homeowners and businesses without power right as the bitter cold began Wednesday.

“Smelling a little gas,” remembered business owner Bret Schnitker. “One of the guys came in and suggested that we evacuate, because they thought they hit a gas line.”

Scott McFadden said he was in the building where the gas line was ruptured. “We had evacuated to the other side of the building,” he remembered. “One of the firemen came and said, ‘You guys need to get out.’”

McFadden was just happy that no one got hurt. “How lucky,” he looked at the building which was missing part of its roof. “We were minutes away from disaster.”

Heavy equipment moved up and down the street before dawn Thursday.  After companies restored utilities, home and business owners faced a cleanup project in the bitter cold and snow.

“We plan on definitely rebuilding,” Greene Schnitke said. “Soulard is just such a great community.”