Petersburg residents forced to evacuate after two gas leaks

PETERSBURG, VA (WWBT) - Two gas leaks in two days forces dozens to evacuate their homes. This is all happening at the Jefferson South of the James Apartments in Petersburg.

The death of a tenant led firefighters to the complex. The Assistant Fire marshal says a 66-year-old woman was found dead in her home. He says, when EMS crews showed up -- they smelled a strong odor of natural gas in the woman's apartment. The fire department was called and tenants were asked to evacuate.

The first gas leak was discovered Wednesday evening in building 16.

"When the fire department got here, you could smell the gas everywhere and that's when we initiated the evacuations," said Assistant Fire Marshal, Marlow Jones.

A gas line ruptured in one of the walls of the apartments.

"It had been pushed back and there was a crink or bend in it," said Jones.

A woman who lived in the building was found dead in her apartment. Investigators say you could smell gas in her unit -- but it's unclear what exactly caused the woman to die. Carsena Pratt is a neighbor.

"She was a nice person and I was just talking to her saying I always hear you on the porch cracking that ice," said Pratt.

A day later there was another gas leak at the apartment complex. This time in building 7. More than 30 people, including Jamonta Crenshaw, were evacuated because of the leak.  Crenshaw says the smell made him dizzy.

"It was strong. Very strong," he added.

Investigators say, the majority of apartments, in building 7, had malfunctioning gas lines and that tenants have reported smelling gas to management for months.

Marlow Jones: "It's been reported to me as part of my investigation that different tenants have been calling about gas in their apartments - and they couldn't locate it. "
Nicole Bell: "Over what period of time?"
Marlow Jones: "From January until now."

Investigators say repairs have been made and residents are now back at home.

Management at Jefferson South of the James Apartments has been instructed to immediately hire a certified plumber or licensed gas contractor to check all the gas lines on the property.

NBC12 reached out to management at the apartment complex and was told, "no comment."

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