Manhole explosions shake downtown streets

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Kris Kirschner/Eyewitness News

Indianapolis - At least three underground explosions on Massachusetts Avenue early Sunday morning sent manhole covers flying and closed of a portion of the popular street.

Utility crews spent the day investigating what happened underground, causing a series of explosions downtown. Fire crews were called to an area outside the historic Athenaeum for a gas odor around 6:30 a.m. Sunday, but even they couldn't anticipate what happened next.

"It blew up out of the sidewalk with flames out of the manhole cover," said IFD Capt. Rita Burris.

Investigators say at least three underground explosions sent manhole covers soaring.

"We know a fire in the secondary cables, we don't know why," said Crystal Livers-Powers with IPL.

IPL is investigating the explosions, but the feeling is a transformer caught fire underneath a manhole, sparking at least two more explosions, including one outside the Athenaeum.

The result was a gaping hole and two broken windows and power had to be shut off for a few hours. The unexpected mishap comes just weeks after the building re-opened from a renovation after a crane accident.

"Cranes, explosions, this old building continues to be a brick house. It has been here and will be here," said Cassie Stockamp, Athenaeum Foundation.

There was no damage to other buildings and nobody was hurt by the explosions. But utility crews expect it will be another day before they have the cause figured out.

A fire engine was parked over one of the manhole covers when it exploded, but there was no major damage done to the engine. A one-block radius around the area is closed off while utility crews investigate.