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Large Gas Leak Secured Near Streeterville Hotel

Updated 04/07/11 - 5:04 p.m.

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Emergency crews have secured a large gas leak outside a Streeterville neighborhood hotel on Thursday.

Construction workers hit a gas main at a construction site on the 100 block of East Superior Street shortly before 10 a.m., officials said. The site is located outside the Affinia Chicago hotel at 166 E. Superior St.

Peoples Gas spokeswoman Bonnie Johnson said a construction crew working across the street from the hotel hit a 2-inch gas main supplying natural gas to the hotel.

As CBS 2's Mike Puccinelli reports, emergency crews evacuated the hotel and other nearby buildings while firefighters and People's Gas workers shut off nearby gas valves to secure the leak.

The leak had been secured by 11:10 a.m., according to a Fire Department spokesperson. There were no immediate reports of injuries.

During the leak, emergency crews evacuated the hotel and other buildings along Superior Street between Fairbanks Court and Michigan Avenue. At least 500 people were evacuated from the hotel.

LISTEN: Newsradio 780's Mike Krauser Reports


Marty Pavlik was one of the guests evacuated from the hotel.

"They were knocking on doors trying to evacuate everybody from the hotel. It was pretty scary. We definitely smelled gas when we came out of the hotel and then we immediately walked over to Michigan Avenue.

"It was very orderly and nobody was very scared," he added. "No emergency, no panic, nothing."

However, many guests had a long way to go to make it out of the 29-story hotel.

"I had to walk the stairs. … Twenty flights of stairs," Michael Dellaca said.

Affinia staffers stepped in to help out.

"The staff was running from floor to floor making sure people were coming out," Dellaca said.

Kentucky resident Olivia Peralta and her family heard the alarm and ran down 19 flights of stairs.

"I was like, 'What the heck?'" she said. "It was like, randomly, the alarms, and then we had to run down. We were all kind of freaked out."

But operations at the Affinia were far from back to normal after the gas leak was secured.

Affinia marketing manager Bridget Machalinski said that, because gas had to be shut off, "our restaurant is currently closed. … Our heat as well is not working and some hot water in the public spaces."

Peoples Gas crews on the scene said they expected to have gas service back to the hotel shortly after 5 p.m.

The Northwestern Memorial Hospital campus is also located a block away from the scene, but there was no indication that the hospital was evacuated.

Crystal Trinidad was at the hospital with her mother to drop off some paperwork when the gas leak happened and, when she tried to go to her mother's car in a parking garage, she said emergency crews told her not to start the car.

"They won't let us start it because if there's a gas leak, if you start the car and there's enough gas in there, it could blow up," Trinidad said.

The gas leak also disrupted the lunch rush at Gino's East, because they didn't have gas to run the ovens.

"We've got our deck ovens back there in the back and that's where the pizza's come from," Gino's East vice president Jon Ellis said. No gas, no ovens; no ovens, no pizza.

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