The Sept. 24, 1996 explosion at the Hyo Shin Bible Presbyterian Church was caused by an improper seal, called a Dresser coupling, which had been improperly placed by an unlicensed plumber on a high pressure gas line in the church basement. Con Edison employees inspected the illegal repair, and then continued gas service to the church.
A leak in the coupling developed, leading to the massive explosion and fire. The explosion leveled the church and caused substantial damage to neighboring homes and property. There were no deaths or injuries.
An agreement between the district attorney’s offices and Con Edison was reached — the district attorney agreed not to prosecute Con Edison and Con Edison agreed to pay $3.5 million and institute new initiatives designed to prevent further disasters. The agreement did not mention that Con Edison did not ensure the gas work inside the building was performed by a licensed plumber before they restored service.
The agreement lets Con Edison determine whether a licensed plumber must perform gas work inside a building. The Plumbing Foundation City of New York is working with the local Department of Buildings regarding the ruling.