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

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

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

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 a heating and air conditioning 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 accumulated gas.

Maine Natural Gas also performed a gas-accumulation check and a repairman had already started fixing the broken pipe by the time police and firefighters left about 90 minutes later.

The leak postponed a high school hockey game between Cony and Gardiner that was scheduled to begin at 4 p.m. Saturday.

Jon Millett, athletic director at Cony Middle and High School, said the game is now scheduled for 3 p.m. Thursday.

Natural gas technicians told Owens the 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 spokeswoman for Maine Natural Gas, said in a statement Monday the company “continues to cooperate with the investigation into what may have caused the broken pipe at the ice arena over the weekend, but is not prepared to comment further on it today.”

Bill Boardman, general manager of the Camden National Bank Ice Vault, said there are no surveillance cameras in that area of the property. He added he is “not necessarily” concerned about incidents in the future, but is “looking at taking some actions to … secure that area of a bit better.”

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

Boardman said Monday he had no estimate yet on the cost to repair the damage.

Firefighters from Farmingdale, Manchester and Randolph also responded to the call.

 

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