Booming neighborhood: Blast scares Fontana residents

news-fontanaThis hole in the ground near the corner of Verona Drive and Olympia Drive in Fontana is all that's left of Tuesday's blast.

It was an otherwise sleepy Tuesday afternoon in the Fontana subdivision, which overlooks Darden Towe Park, as Carrie Hanley sat on her back porch to enjoy the the mild weather of June 16. Around 12:30pm, the only thing out of the ordinary was that just down the hill, as some workers were getting ready to blast their way through some rock in order to install a new sewage line.

So it came as little surprise when Hanley heard the low rumble from the detonation. What came as a surprise is what happened next.

"It was just like the movies," says Hanley. "We just saw this big, black cloud coming toward us."

Hanley says she could think of only one thing: "Run for cover."

After the fallout subsided, it was clear that nobody was hurt, but plenty were scared as houses were splattered with mud and other materials. The debris cracked the siding of one house and put a fist-sized dent in the roof of one resident's vehicle.

The explosion was part of the construction of a new subdivision, Pavilions at Pantops, and Albemarle County has suspended subcontractor Douglas Explosives' permits, pending an investigation by the fire marshal. General contractor C.W. Hurt says he's been assured that it won't happen again.

"I was glad to hear nobody got hurt," says Hurt. "We've just got one more of these to do, and I certainly think they're going to be more careful next time."

Shortly after making that comment on Thursday, June 18, Hurt learned that he'd have to find another way to get the rock out of the way of the new sewer line, as he reached an agreement with the county not to do anymore blasting on the site.

A representative from Douglas Explosives was not available for comment, but Hanley says that she hopes that the county will take action against those responsible.

"We're taxpayers, and we value our homes," says Hanley, "even if nobody else does."

–updated June 18 at 4:58pm