Thursday, November 15, 2001

Blast, fire wreck military supply store

Four flee from Newport business with injuries

By Jim Hannah
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        NEWPORT — Firefighters are trying to determine the cause of an explosion and fire at a military supply store that destroyed the building and sent four people to a hospital Wednesday afternoon.

[photo] Smoke billows from the Land, Air & Sea Surplus store on Monmouth Street in Newport after an explosion and fire Wednesday at the store.
(Patrick Reddy photo)
| ZOOM |
        Shoppers at the nearby Newport Shopping Center reported hearing ammunition go off “like popcorn” around 1:45 p.m. as heavy smoke blanketed the area around the Land, Air & Sea military surplus store at 1733 Monmouth St.

        The fire destroyed the building, said Lt. Phil Liles of Newport police. A damage estimate was not available.

        Police are investigating the possibility that a gun discharged accidentally and that the bullet might have struck explosive materials.

        “It appears to be an accident,” Lt. Liles said, “but I wouldn't rule out negligence.”

        Fire investigators were trying to determine what exploded. Lt. Liles said the store sold guns and ammunition, but not military-grade weapons or black powder.

        Rescuers evacuated the nearby Bob Evans restaurant because of the smoke before closing part of Monmouth Street to contain and clean up after the blaze. However, the shopping center remained open.

        Police said three customers and store owner Karen Embs were taken to St. Luke Hospital East in Fort Thomas. She and two others were treated for cuts and bruises and released. A man was admitted and was listed in stable condition, being treated for burns .

        Police did not release the names of the customers. Ms. Embs couldn't be reached for comment.

        Workers at Car-X Auto Service, across the street from the surplus store, said the explosion shook the ground.

        “We looked across the street, and they were running for their lives,” said Car-X service manager Mike Girkin, 21, of Wilder. “The windows were all shattered. In a matter of minutes, the entire building was engulfed in flames.”


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