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Explosions Close Rochester Airport Thursday; Two People Injured

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Rochester: Explosions Close Rochester Airport Thursday; Two People Injured
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The Greater Rochester International Airport is back open after two explosions near the refueling station Thursday afternoon.

Two people were injured, and the airport was closed for about 50 minutes.

Monroe County Executive Maggie Brooks said it occurred during a tank exchange operation. Brooks said a driver from Praxair was doing the exchange when it appears that some type of arch occurred.

The driver, now confirmed as Robert Scruggs, 61, is from Geneva, Ohio. He was transported to Strong Hospital for second degree hand and facial burns. He is reported to be in satisfactory condition. Praxair is a supplier of Hydrogen for GM vehicles that are refueled at the airport location.

Brooks said a female employee from the Burger King restaurant on Scottsville Road was also treated for ear pain that occurred during the explosion.

The incident happened on the Scottsville Rd. side of the property near the NY State Police building. Most roads including Scottsville Rd., Brooks Ave and Paul Rd. were closed as Fire, Police and EMS crews operated in the area.

The FAA reports that the airport re-opened at 2:20 p.m.

The Airport Fire/Rescue, Gates Fire District, Rochester Fire Department, Monroe County Sheriff's Department, NYSP, Rochester Police Department, the Monroe County Hazmat Team and Rural Metro Ambulance were all on scene.

Airport Manager Dave Damelio said that the investigation into the cause is continuing. All the flights coming in and out of the airport were back on schedule at about 7:00pm Thursday.

Earlier in the day Flights in and out of the airport were delayed and in some cases diverted in mid air. Instead of touching down in Rochester some on board American Eagle flight 4166 arrived at the Greater Rochester International Airport by on a bus.

"No water, nothing to drink, it was terrible. An hour ride of torture," said Jim Tribble of Dallas.

Tribble’s flight left Chicago's O'Hare airport on time and was making its final decent into Rochester at about 1:00pm Thursday.

"We were a little bit late landing and our pilot finally came over the overhead and said there had been some sort of fuel explosion at the airport and we were diverted to Buffalo,” said Avery Zibilich of Rochester.

In addition to flames and smoke about a half mile from the main runway, the two hydrogen explosions caused all air traffic to be suspended for 50 minutes. Passengers boarding three flights in Rochester were ordered off the planes.

"Just like any other delay when you get a delay on the ground anywhere its going to affect anything else in the air," Damelio said.

Two flights were rerouted to Buffalo, another was on its way from Washington Dulles Airport.

"We got almost to Rochester and then we had to go back to Dulles," said Beth Mruk of Baltimore. "I thought a plane had crashed on the runway. My sister thought it was a terrorist attack coming through. Then our cousin informed us it wasn't even at the airport,” Mruk added.

After about an hour back on the ground in Washington, Mruk was back in the air. For those who landed in Buffalo the wait was far from over.

"Waited about two and a half hours for this bus to show up," Tribble said.

It wasn't first class accommodations, but it was safer than landing near a hydrogen explosion.

“Oh absolutely. For sure. Right? The lesser of two evils I guess,” Tribble said.

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