| RIO DE JANEIRO – Utility regulators in Rio de Janeiro today fined the city’s gas company for an explosion last year that seriously injured two Americans. The Ohio couple was vacationing in Brazil and staying in the Copacabana neighborhood when the incident occurred.
The regulators on Wednesday afternoon assessed a fine equal to about $1.2 million USD against Companhia Distribuidora de Gás (CEG). The fine is the maximum allowed under the company’s concession agreement with the city and the licensee has five days to appeal.
The explosion occurred around 10:30 am on June 29th last year in an underground chamber at the corner of Rua Repulica de Peru and Avenida Nossa Senhora de Copacabana. It was ignited by a short circuit in the traffic signal wiring below the street. The accident was exacerbated by the presence of explosive gas pooled in the electrical chamber under the roadway.
The thunderous explosion, which could be heard throughout the heavily populated enclave, tossed a 350-kilo manhole cover several stories into the air. Flames shot out of the hole engulfing one of the tourists and burning her over 80% of her body. Her companion suffered less severe burns to his hair, arms and head. The two were rescued and taken to Miguel Couto Hospital where they were admitted.
The victims, Sara Lari, 28, and David Melaugheim, 31, had just arrived in Rio de Janeiro the night before. The American Embassy arranged for relatives to fly in from the U.S. to help.