A Brooklyn firefighter is badly burned after a manhole exploded under a parked car that he was moving after making sure its occupant was at a safe distance. Lt. Richard Buckhelt, a 16-year-veteran of the FDNY, responded to a call from Pablo Mejia of smoke billowing from a manhole on Lincoln Road underneath a Honda Accord. Mejia tells the Post, "He took my keys, got in, and right when he tried to back up, that manhole exploded with him in [the car]." A witness says he "just heard 'Boom!' and the car went up in the air. There were a lot of flames and smoke." Buckhelt is being treated for first and second degree burns on his face and hands.
"When you are in that situation, a hundred questions pop into your head," Buckhelt tells the paper from the hospital, "but I couldn't let him move the car—it wasn't safe…I got out of there quickly because of my guys." Buckhelt is a decorated firefighter stationed with Engine Co. 249, and helped pull three girls from a burning building in 2007. Both his grandfathers were FDNY battalion chiefs, and his father is a retired figherfighter. "If that would have been me, I would have been dead," Mejia notes. Exploding manholes are a dangerous and common occurrence throughout the city, and are usually caused by pent-up gases emitted by high-voltage wires running underground.