City of Topeka employee driving backhoe hits gas line, causing leak; area residents evacuated

Crews from Kansas Gas Service and the city of Topeka were trying to contain a gas leak in the 2300 block of S.W. Boswell on Monday morning, causing the evacuation of several residents in the area.


Ryan Woolaway, spokesperson for the city’s water department, confirmed a city employee who was using a backhoe to repair a water main break in the area accidentally hit the gas line, causing the leak.

Dawn Tripp, a spokesperson for Kansas Gas Service, said five homes were evacuated for safety precautions. Topeka police officers blocked north and southbound traffic in the 2200 to 2400 blocks of Boswell, directly south of Washburn University and just west of Stout Elementary while crews repaired the line.

Tripp said no gas service was interrupted. No injuries were reported and repairs were expected to be completed as of early Monday afternoon, Tripp said.

Susan McKaskle, 69, who said she lives in the 2300 block of Boswell, said she looked out her door sometime after 9:30 a.m. and saw the fire crews on her street. She said she didn’t feel sick but she smelled the gas and decided to get herself and her dog, Houdini, out of her home.

“It got worse,” she said, referring to the gas odor.

McKaskle said she thought this was the second time in about 13 years that she’s been living in the neighborhood that a natural leak has occured.

Police last week said a backhoe backed into a power pole in downtown Topeka, causing a traffic jam.

Contact reporter Angela Deines at (785) 295-1143 or follow her on Twitter @AngelaDeines.