Explosion injures employee at Georgia Gwinnett College

GWINNETT COUNTY, Ga. — A woman is in the hospital after an explosion occurred in the bathroom of a Gwinnett County college.

Investigators say the damage is contained to a women's restroom, and they are blaming the explosion on a buildup in the sewage pipes.

Witnesses weren't sure what had happened until they saw smoke coming from the restrooms in building A on the Georgia Gwinnett College campus.

“I heard a big explosion,” said student Carlos Villafane.

From the outside of Building A you can't tell anything happened, but investigators told Channel 2’s Tony Thomas that the inside of the restroom is in shambles.

“I heard screaming, but I didn't hear the explosion,” said student MyChaela Garner

“I honestly thought somebody, like, dropped something off a pallet or something in the kitchen,” Villafane told Thomas.

But then student Jason Knoblett spotted the victim, a food service worker, crawling out of the bathroom.

“I didn’t see any physical harm. She was just on the floor and seemed to be crying out,” Knoblett said.

Firefighters say she was burned in the blast.  A second person, a student, was also in the bathroom but was not hurt.  %



The school's president, Dr. Stas Preczewski, announced late Monday that investigators believe a buildup of methane gas in the sewage pipes caused the explosion. He said federal and local investigators combed the building for any other problems.

“The FBI was here, and they tested all sorts of samples of materials that were in the room and they could find nothing that indicated any form of explosive device,” Preczewski said. “Restoration and assessment of the damage is currently underway.”

Preczewski said a fire alarm that went off about 20 minutes before the blast is apparently unrelated. Firefighters were still on the scene for that call when the blast occurred.

“I wanted to go help her but everyone was running out and they told us all to leave,” Villafane said.

Authorities told Thomas that the victim is not a student at Georgia Gwinnett, but an employee of the food service contractor Aramark.

Fire officials say she is expected to recover.