Worker who herded people out before Maine blast called hero

  • A police officer salutes as the procession honoring Farmington Fire Rescue Capt. Michael Bell as it arrives in Farmington, Maine, Tuesday, Sept. 17, 2019. Bell was killed in an explosion the day before that also injured six other firefighters and a maintenance worker at the LEAP building, a nonprofit that serves people with cognitive and intellectual disabilities in Farmington. (Rich Abrahamson/The Central Maine Morning Sentinel via AP) Rich Abrahamson

  • Maine State Police lead a procession honoring Farmington Fire Rescue Capt. Michael Bell as it arrives in Farmington, Maine, Tuesday, Sept. 17, 2019. Bell was killed in an explosion the day before that also injured six other firefighters and a maintenance worker at the LEAP building, a nonprofit that serves people with cognitive and intellectual disabilities in Farmington. (Rich Abrahamson/The Central Maine Morning Sentinel via AP) Rich Abrahamson

  • University of Maine student react as the procession honoring Farmington Fire Rescue Capt. Michael Bell passes through campus in Farmington, Maine, Tuesday, Sept. 17, 2019. Bell was killed in an explosion the day before that also injured six other firefighters and a maintenance worker at the LEAP building, a nonprofit that serves people with cognitive and intellectual disabilities in Farmington. (Rich Abrahamson/The Central Maine Morning Sentinel via AP) Rich Abrahamson

  • A Farmington fire truck leads the leads a procession honoring Farmington Fire Rescue Capt. Michael Bell as it arrives in Farmington, Maine, Tuesday, Sept. 17, 2019. Bell was killed in an explosion the day before that also injured six other firefighters and a maintenance worker at the LEAP building, a nonprofit that serves people with cognitive and intellectual disabilities in Farmington. (Rich Abrahamson/The Central Maine Morning Sentinel via AP) Rich Abrahamson

  • Firefighters looks through debris at the scene of an explosion Monday, Sept. 16, 2019, in Farmington, Maine. Officials say a town's fire chief is among the injured in a propane explosion that killed a firefighter. State public safety spokesman Steve McCausland said after Monday morning's explosion at a nonprofit center in Farmington that multiple people remain hospitalized. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty) Robert F. Bukaty

  • A firefighter walks through the scene of an explosion Monday, Sept. 16, 2019, in Farmington, Maine. Officials say a town's fire chief is among the injured in a propane explosion that killed a firefighter. State public safety spokesman Steve McCausland said after Monday morning's explosion at a nonprofit center in Farmington that multiple people remain hospitalized. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty) Robert F. Bukaty

  • An aerial view of the devastation after an explosion at the Life Enrichment Advancing People (LEAP) building, in Farmington, Maine killed one firefighter and injured multiple other people, on Monday morning September 16, 2019. (Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal via AP) Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

  • A man works at the scene of a deadly propane explosion, Monday, Sept. 16, 2019, which leveled new construction in Farmington, Maine. (Jacob Gage via AP) Jacob Gage

Published: 9/17/2019 11:17:04 PM

FARMINGTON, Maine — A maintenance manager was credited Tuesday with saving lives by evacuating a building before an explosion that gravely injured him, while investigators began examining the rubble to determine the cause and the firefighter who died was saluted.

Larry Lord emptied the building of “at least a dozen or so employees” when the odor of propane gas was detected just minutes before the powerful blast destroyed the building and killed a firefighter, Police Chief Jack Peck said Tuesday.

“Without his quick actions, I think it would’ve been a much more horrific tragedy,” Peck told reporters.

Lisa Charles, who worked with the nonprofit that was runout of the building but was not there at the time of the blast, said she is grateful Lord got her colleagues to safety.

“They got a warning from the maintenance guy,” she said Monday, calling him a hero.

Her colleagues told her they were taken to a safe area but that Lord went back inside with firefighters before the blast occurred.

In addition to the death of Fire Capt. Michael Bell, 68, Lord and seven other people were injured when Monday’s explosion leveled the two-story building that housed LEAP, a nonprofit that serves people with cognitive and intellectual disabilities.

Investigators from the Maine Fire Marshal’s Office and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives began digging Tuesday through concrete, wood and debris for clues.

Part of the focus is on propane gas, which either caused the blast or must be ruled out, the fire marshal’s office said, predicting the work will take about a week.

Six people remained hospitalized Tuesday in Portland and Boston, with Lord and three fighters in critical condition, officials said.

Acting Farmington Fire Chief Tim Hardy said his department and the community will get past the tragedy, but it will take time.

“We will recover from this,” he said. “We’ll come together and conquer this together.”




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