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1 killed, 6 injured in Colo. restaurant explosion

An explosion laid waste to a restaurant and a shop Thursday in downtown Pueblo, Colo., killing one person and injuring at least six. Crews found a survivor more than four hours later.
Image: Firefighters search through the rubble of a restaurant
Firefighters search through the rubble of a restaurant that collapsed after an explosion in the old town part of Pueblo, Colo., on Thursday. David Zalubowski / AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

An explosion laid waste to a restaurant and a shop Thursday in downtown Pueblo, killing one person, injuring at least six and forcing several blocks to evacuate. Crews pulled a survivor from the rubble more than four hours after the blast.

The cause of the blast was being investigated. At least one witness said she smelled gas, and buildings for several blocks in all directions were evacuated.

The person who died was one of two women rescued from a shop next to the Branch Inn restaurant, said Fire Chief Chris Riley.

Firefighters dug a man out of the rubble of the restaurant around 6:30 p.m. Riley said he was conscious and talking.

Crews search for other victims
Five people taken to hospitals earlier were also conscious and spoke with firefighters, Fire Department spokesman Woody Percival said.

Authorities did not know whether the restaurant was open when the explosion occurred or how many people were inside. Crews were searching the buildings for anyone else who might be trapped inside, Percival said.

Smoke still rose from the rubble hours after the explosion. Glass block, bricks and other debris were strewn more than 100 feet from the restaurant. The third-floor windows of an apartment across the street were blown out.

The Branch Inn sign lay on its side in the street, and an odor of burnt plastic filled the air. The blast blew the restaurant's front door into an intersection, where a hinge lodged in the fender of a sport utility vehicle waiting at a stop sign.

'It was just smoke'
The SUV driver, 35-year-old Christine Guerin, said she was looking for a business when she heard an explosion and saw glass flying toward her.

"You couldn't even see the building. It was just smoke, black smoke," she said, saying she could hear a hissing noise and smelled gas after she got out of her car.

Police quickly arrived quickly and began escorting people away.

Percival did not know what type of business was in the adjacent building. He said the neighborhood is dotted with boutiques that sell clocks, antiques, clothing and gifts.

"I don't recognize what's there," he said.

Pueblo, a city of about 106,000, is 100 miles south of Denver.