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Blast Kills One, Downs Power In Cambridge

By Matthew W. Granade and Barbara E. Martinez

One man died and four were injured last night during multiple explosions in Kendall Square. The blasts resulted in a five-hour power outage throughout the City of Cambridge.

Com Electric employee Douglas Pollander was underground responding to an explosion when a second blast occurred an hour later. A resulting fire killed Pollander and injured three of his co-workers and a police officer, according to Com Electric spokesperson Peter Diamond. Officials on the scene said Pollander's body remained trapped for over an hour.

Survived by a wife and six children, Pollander, 42, was a 17-year veteran of Com Electric and resided on Madison Avenue in Cambridge.

The Harvard University Police Department (HUPD) provided small space rescue equipment, and one Facilities Maintenance employee joined Cambridge officials to help retrieve the victim.

To prevent further blasts, Com Electric shut off electricity to most of Cambridge, affecting 15 to 20 thousand customers. The company had restored power to all of Cambridge by 10:45 p.m.

Timetable

Observers reported two loud explosions at about 5:45 p.m. at the intersection of Hampshire St. and Cardinal Madeiras Way. The underground blasts blew off a utility entry port cover, releasing a five-story cloud of brown and blue smoke.

Cambridge Police and Fire and Com Electric utility workers responded to reports of the blast and immediately traced the cause of the explosion to three "blown out" cables. Dimond last night said the cause of these "faults" was still under investigation.

The fatal blast occurred at 6:45 p.m. and shot flames into the air, sending four injured persons--Com Electric employees John Collins, Joe Crawler and Jim Cardenelli and a police officer whose name was not released--to Mass. General Hospital (MGH).

Two of the Com Electric workers and the officer were treated for minor smoke inhalation and released early yesterday evening, but one worker who suffered second and third degree burns covering 30 percent of his body was transferred to the burn unit, said Eric Legome, the attending physician in the MGH emergency room.

"The early incident was certainly tragic, but everyone's trying to work despite these awful circumstances," Dimond said.

Over 30 response vehicles arrived at the scene throughout the evening, and the police cordoned off a three block area. As Com Electric began to restore power, police--fearing another explosion--pushed observers back an additional block.

All Harvard Yard buildings, except for Widener Library and Wigglesworth Hall, lost power, according to HUPD Sgt. Robert Kotowski. Harvard dorms were unlocked because the key card system does not work without electric power.

The HUPD also evacuated University facilities because buildings' battery-powered emergency lighting was only expected to last for three hours. HUPD officers and security guards said they had responded to a number of calls for people stuck in elevators. Although the Science Center has an emergency generator, it was also evacuated to prevent people from becoming trapped in the elevators. Both the HUPD and University Health Services also have emergency generators.

Fire and police officials were dispatched across the city in response to fire alarms set-off by the power outage. Six fire trucks were called to 975 Memorial Drive and One University Place where two diesel generators failed, emitting clouds of smoke.

In the Square, cars flowed hectically without the help of traffic lights, and restaurants donned candles during the three hour power outage.

Cambridge residents took the inconvenience in stride.

"We're dining by candlelight at Wrap Culture," said owner Brian Lesser. With gas cooking equipment, Wrap Culture continued serving, though employees worked in the dark.

The eatery had to cancel a live performance by musician Merrie Amsterberg. Harvard-Radcliffe Summer Theatre also canceled its opening night performance of Taming of the Shrew at the Loeb Experimental The-ater, sending a sold out crowd--as well as an eager cast--home disappointed.

--Susan M. Biancana, Geoffrey A. Fowler, Karen A. Medlin and Elizabeth S. Zuckerman contributed to the reporting of this story.

All Harvard Yard buildings, except for Widener Library and Wigglesworth Hall, lost power, according to HUPD Sgt. Robert Kotowski. Harvard dorms were unlocked because the key card system does not work without electric power.

The HUPD also evacuated University facilities because buildings' battery-powered emergency lighting was only expected to last for three hours. HUPD officers and security guards said they had responded to a number of calls for people stuck in elevators. Although the Science Center has an emergency generator, it was also evacuated to prevent people from becoming trapped in the elevators. Both the HUPD and University Health Services also have emergency generators.

Fire and police officials were dispatched across the city in response to fire alarms set-off by the power outage. Six fire trucks were called to 975 Memorial Drive and One University Place where two diesel generators failed, emitting clouds of smoke.

In the Square, cars flowed hectically without the help of traffic lights, and restaurants donned candles during the three hour power outage.

Cambridge residents took the inconvenience in stride.

"We're dining by candlelight at Wrap Culture," said owner Brian Lesser. With gas cooking equipment, Wrap Culture continued serving, though employees worked in the dark.

The eatery had to cancel a live performance by musician Merrie Amsterberg. Harvard-Radcliffe Summer Theatre also canceled its opening night performance of Taming of the Shrew at the Loeb Experimental The-ater, sending a sold out crowd--as well as an eager cast--home disappointed.

--Susan M. Biancana, Geoffrey A. Fowler, Karen A. Medlin and Elizabeth S. Zuckerman contributed to the reporting of this story.

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