FRANKLIN, Va. – Nearly two months after a propane explosion at a duplex in the Berkley Court Apartments in Franklin, many of the families living in the apartments are still without hot water and have been uprooted from their homes.
On April 15, the explosion killed one man and injured a woman. That home has now been torn down, and there has been some progress to restore hot water.
The shell of the duplex was demolished over the weekend. All that remains is the walkway that once led up to the home.
Many folks who live in the community have been staying in hotels and are growing tired. They’re hoping to move back in soon to get back to their lives.
Damon Graydon has lived at Berkley Court for 12 years. He said the last several weeks have been hectic for him and his family of five.
“It’s an inconvenience traveling back and forth,” he said. “It’s an inconvenience. It really is.”
Graydon and his family moved into the nearby Super 8 motel about a month after the explosion, which happened down the street from his apartment.
The propane gas to heat the water in the complex has been shut off ever since.
Many families like Graydon’s have been living in various hotels, including the Super 8 and Quality Inn in Franklin, and the Hampton Inn in Suffolk.
“It been a headache because my daughter had prom, graduation,” said Graydon.
A woman who was living in the adjoining unit was badly hurt. Franklin City Manager Amanda Jarratt said the woman has been released from rehab and is now living with family.
“This, again, is a tragedy,” Jarratt said. “It’s a complex issue with multiple layers. Everyone was on hold until they could come to some determination about what was safe and how to move forward.”
After a slow start, Jarratt said Severn Property Management, the owner of Berkley Court, has now decided what’s safe is to upgrade all 73 units to have electric water heaters rather than propane.
“We are pleased that no one at the complex will have to worry about propane and their safety using that form of power for their hot water heaters now,” said Jarratt.
So far, construction crews have installed the heaters in 10 apartments. Jarratt said 41 apartments have had electrical upgrades to install the heater.
Graydon is still waiting for his.
“There’s people up here that has moved away,” Graydon said. “They’re afraid.”
Though many families’ lives have been turned upside down since that horrific day, Graydon said he’s just thankful more lives weren’t lost.
“I hate that the man lost his life, but it’s kind of a blessing that it [the explosion] did happen,” he said. “We were sitting on a time bomb. We were sitting on a time bomb.”
Severn Property Management continues to dodge interview requests with News 3 despite dozens of phone calls and emails to them since the explosion nearly two months ago.
In the meantime, a letter posted to the office building door says crews will continue to work six days a week to restore hot water to homes.
According to Jarratt, the management company is hoping to have all water heaters installed in two to three weeks.
Meantime, an inspection has just been completed by the State Corporation Commission (SCC), and the agency has now wrapped up its investigation into what caused the explosion. The city has not seen that report yet.