Accident causes gas leak, evacuations


Staff Writer

Some downtown residents were evacuated from their homes late Tuesday night following a one-vehicle accident that left natural gas leaking in the area.

Several agencies were dispatched to the alleyway between 7th and 8th streets near Piedra Street at 10:52 p.m. Tuesday night in response to a pickup truck that struck a gas meter, said Det. Scott Maxwell of the Pagosa Springs Police Department.

Upon arrival to the scene, the pickup was sideways in the alley and had struck a gas meter, pushing it against a nearby building and breaking a pipe, leaving high-pressure natural gas leaking out of the pipe, Maxwell said.

PSPD Officer Brooks Brown evacuated the area, though the number of people evacuated was not available Wednesday morning, and gas to the meter was shut off.

Meanwhile, personnel from the Pagosa Fire Protection District and Source Gas worked to move the vehicle out of the way in order to secure the scene and allow for repairs to be made to the meter, said PFPD firefighter Thad McKain.

In investigating the incident, Maxwell said a witness reported to Brown that a man, Richard Salas, Jr., 18, of Pagosa Springs, had left a nearby residence in a reckless manner after drinking and was upset.

Upon leaving, the witness reported that the driver lost control of the vehicle, struck the meter, and fled the scene on foot.

But later, at approximately 12:27 a.m., Salas returned to the scene and reported to Brown that he’d had mechanical problems with his transmission, causing him to strike the meter with his vehicle.

After completing his investigation, Brown arrested Salas on several charges:

• Leaving scene without providing required information after striking unattended property.

• Failed to notify police of accident.

• Reckless driving.

• Drove vehicle without valid drivers license.

• Owner operated uninsured motor vehicle on a public roadway.

• Displayed expired number plates.

• Illegal possession of ethyl alcohol by underage person.

• Illegal consumption by underage person.

• Drove vehicle while under the influence of drugs/alcohol or both.

• Drove vehicle while ability impaired by drugs/alcohol or both.