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Gas leaks found less than a week after fatal Medina apartment blast

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Columbia Gas Co. crews inspect Medina Village Apartments on Springbrook Drive for gas leaks Wednesday. ASHLEY FOX / GAZETTE

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Crews were going door to door after gas leaks were discovered Wednesday at the same apartment complex where an explosion and fire killed an 18-year-old man a week ago.

“Two units were checked and leaks were found, so we are checking all … of the complex.” Fire Chief Bob Painter said.

Columbia Gas Co. employees, Medina Village Apartments maintenance workers and Medina Fire Department staff were working together to conduct the inspections.

Painter estimated the work would take until 10 p.m. to investigate the more than 100 apartments in the 10-building complex.

He said his department was contacted Wednesday about a suspected leak.

On Feb. 9, a fire and explosion at 451 Springbrook Drive killed 18-year-old Jacob Drake and severely injured his parents, Bob and Sheila Drake, who remain hospitalized at Cleveland MetroHealth Medical Center. Eight families were displaced in the fire.

The building was ruled a total loss but no loss estimate had been determined Wednesday, the chief said.

Columbia Gas spokesman Bill Loomer reiterated Wednesday that Columbia’s investigation determined “that our service was safe.

It was not the cause of the incident” of the explosion.

Loomer said that the company empathizes with the community and families affected by the tragedy.

Terry Bilek, maintenance director at the complex, said crews from Columbia Gas located a “couple little (gas) leaks” Wednesday in an eight-apartment building.

“They’re inspecting all units. Nothing major,” Bilek said. “It’s a preventive thing because of what happened to the building down there.”

Assistance from Columbia Gas was requested by the Ohio Fire Marshal’s Office, which continues to investigate the fire and explosion, and the Medina Fire Department, Loomer said.

He explained service technicians were inspecting private gas lines, although they are the customer’s responsibility.

Columbia is responsible for the main gas line to the service line to the meter, he said.

Loomer said he could not estimate how long it would take for crews to complete their inspections.

“If we find problems with the units, we have to red tag them and turn off the system,” Loomer said. Plumbers were available to make repairs to the private lines, he added.

A tenant who asked to remain anonymous said her gas was shut off and she was not expecting to have heat into the evening.

The complex is owned by Integrity Realty Group, whose website lists its office in Cleveland Heights. A person answering the phone referred questions to the Medina complex’s office.

Integrity lists the Medina property among several it operates in Cleveland, Berea, Olmsted Falls, Chardon, Kent and the Mahoning Valley.

Painter said fire officials have been unable to reach an apartment complex manager.

“We have been unsuccessful in finding a number to reach someone,” he said.

Contact reporter Ashley Fox at (330) 721-4048 or afox@medina-gazette.com. Contact reporter Halee Heironimus at (330) 721-4012 or hheironimus@medina-gazette.com.



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