SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - Hundreds of people were forced to evacuate because of a gas leak in downtown Savannah, Thursday night.
Savannah Fire says a driver was traveling west on E. Bryan Street between Abercorn and Drayton streets when he experienced a medical emergency and drove off the road. His vehicle struck the gas meter at the Olde Pink House Restaurant and ruptured the gas line.
Crews arrived on the scene at 7:24 p.m. and evacuated the Pink House and the high rise building at 24 Drayton Street then closed off all streets within a two-block radius. While gas company crews worked to cap the damaged line, Savannah Fire was strategically positioned around the site in case of a fire.
Once people were evacuated from the contaminated area, many were then stranded because they weren't allowed to get back to their vehicles in the parking garages.
When the driver ran off the road and busted the line on the backside of the restaurant, a couple who had just paid their bill heard the noise and was quickly surrounded by chaos.
"All the sudden we saw people running down the street and pouring out of the restaurant," said witness, Stephen Kort.
Before the couple heard shouts to evacuate the parameter, they say they could actually hear the gas leaking.
"Almost like a soda machine where the gas is coming out making a 'shhhh' noise," said Marla Kort.
Savannah Fire immediately cleared the vicinity. Officials patrolling the scene told concerned civilians the gas was toxic and dangerous to anyone nearby.
"We don't want to breathe that in, and we do not a fire to occur," said Jenel Few, Spokesperson for Savannah Fire.
One of the crowds evacuated was a performance group at the Lucas Theatre.
"Actually, the kids were really good. They were questioning, 'well what's happening, are we okay,' and we just got them out really fast," said witness, Lauren McKowen.
Gas company crews successfully capped the gas line and firefighters went through the surrounding buildings, testing the air quality before allowing citizens back in.
As crews worked to contain the gas leak, folks standing nearby were just relieved no one else was injured.
The area was reopened by 9:30 p.m., but the section of Bryan Street between Drayton and Abercorn remained closed while crews finalized repairs to the gas line.
The leak is now under control and all roads have reopened. We are still waiting to hear more about the driver who crashed into the line and was taken to Memorial Medical Center. We'll bring those details to you as soon as we get them.