Gas leak evacuates seniors

By Diane Smith | Staff Writer Published:

More than 40 residents of the Four Seasons apartment building on Kent's east side were evacuated Friday because of a gas leak.

The Kent Police Department said a car struck the building at around 11 a.m., causing damage to a gas line. There are about 67 residents in the building, and all who were home, plus their pets, were evacuated.

The building, at 5956 Horning Road, is immediately east of two area churches, the United Church of Christ in Kent and the Kent Newman Center. Both served as initial evacuation sites before the group was relocated to the Student Recreation and Wellness Center on the Kent State University campus.

Bill Buckbee, assistant chief of the Kent State University Police Department, said the American Red Cross set up an emergency shelter there, and provided about 42 residents with pizza, cookies and water. A few residents went to the homes of family members, Buckbee said, and several were not home to be evacuated.

Many of the seniors at the recreation center were accompanied by their pets, while some worried about animals they had to leave behind.

Janet Johnston had a tearful reunion with her tortoiseshell calico cat, Muffin, who was brought in by an officer from the KSU Police Department. Later, an officer also reunited another woman with her cat, Peanut.

Johnston said she was coming home from the store Friday when she was ushered onto a bus and evacuated. She was unable to get into her apartment to retrieve the cat.

She spent most of her time at the shelter worrying about her pet, who she said was "almost dead" when her son-in-law found her in his barn 14 years ago, and expressed surprise that she let the firefighter pick her up.

"She's my baby," she said.

Alice Ross, accompanied by her love bird, Charlie, and Betty O'Brien sat in the back of the room, eating pizza and talking about how quickly the evacuation took place.

"It happened real fast," O'Brien said, adding that she barely had time to take care of a few quick things before she was rushed outside. "I thought it was just a fire drill."

Gretchen Julian, director of the recreation center, invited the evacuees to make themselves at home, saying they were welcome to walk on the track or use the recreation center while they were there. When a few people said they didn't bring their swimsuit, Julian joked that there would be "no skinnnydipping."

Buckbee said the gas line had already been repaired, and emergency crews were fanning the smell of gas out of the building to make sure there were no effects on the seniors. He estimated that the seniors would be home before evening.

The Portage Area Transportation Authority assisted with transportation of the evacuees, and several area fire departments assisted the Kent police and fire and KSU police departments.

Contact this reporter at 330-298-1139 or dsmith@recordpub.com

Facebook: Diane Smith, Record-Courier

Twitter: @DianeSmith_RC

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