HALLOWELL — A Saturday afternoon gas leak that prompted the evacuation of the Camden National Bank Ice Vault may have been caused by “human interaction” and is under investigation, authorities said Monday.

Hallowell Police Chief Eric Nason said the department is investigating the incident.

“Preliminary information indicates that it was done either intentionally or accidentally, versus natural causes,” Nason said Monday.

Hallowell Fire Chief Jim Owens said his department received a call for an odor of natural gas at 3:13 p.m. Saturday. He said an employee at the ice arena identified the leak, then went inside to shut off the gas before the fire department arrived. Owens said a gas line, which ran into the building from an HVAC unit, had been broken and gas was escaping from it.

About 100 people were evacuated as firefighters scoured the Ice Vault with gas meters in search of an accumulation of gas. Maine Natural Gas also performed a gas-accumulation check and a repairman had already started fixing the broken pipe by the time first responders left about an hour-and-a-half later.

The leak postponed a high school hockey game between Cony and Gardiner, which was scheduled for 4 p.m. Saturday. Cony Middle and High School Athletic Director Jon Millett said the game is now scheduled to be played Thursday, Dec. 19, at 3 p.m.

Farmingdale, Manchester and Randolph fire departments assisted with the call.

Natural gas technicians told Owens damaged line was “physically broken off” because of “human interaction.” He said since the line was on the north end of the building, which is not easily accessible by a vehicle, it could not have been hit by a car.

Catharine Hartnett, a spokesperson for Maine Natural Gas, did not immediately respond Monday to a request for comment.

Camden National Bank Ice Vault General Manager Bill Boardman said there are no surveillance cameras in that area of the property. Boardman said he is “not necessarily” concerned about incidents in the future, but he is “looking at taking some actions to … secure that area of a bit better.” He said no estimates were available for the cost of repairing the damage.

“It’s been there seven years without incident,” he said.

 


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