This Friday, Aug. 14 will mark exactly one year since an explosion rocked the Old East Village (OEV) community in London, Ont.
A vehicle crashed into a home, hitting a gas line and sparking a massive explosion that completely levelled one home, left two others so badly damaged they had to be demolished, and resulted in the evacuation of an entire neighbourhood.
The incident also resulted in a dozen charges against a Kitchener woman, eight of which are impaired driving-related offences. While no deaths were reported, one firefighter was seriously injured.
Read more: (Feb. 2020) London women still seeking closure months after Old East Village explosion destroyed home
What follows is a timeline of events, from the moment of the crash to the current status of the court case.
The first 48 hours
Wednesday, August 14, 2019
Emergency crews are called to reports of a crash at 10:37 p.m. and arrive on scene at 10:41 p.m. to find that a vehicle has driven into 450 Woodman Ave., striking a gas line. According to police, a female driver is extricated from the vehicle and arrested for suspected impaired driving.
City officials say 10 minutes after the first unit arrived on scene, at 10:51 p.m., a massive explosion erupts.
Paramedics assess 12 patients, seven of whom are transported to hospital — one civilian, four firefighters and two police officers.
More than 100 homes in the area — on Woodman Avenue, Quebec Street, and Charlotte Street — are evacuated and hydro and gas are shut off to the area.
Falling debris from the explosion results in fires in at least seven other homes in the area.
Thursday, Aug. 15, 2019
Just over an hour after the explosion, at 12:06 a.m., a reception centre for evacuated residents is set up at Carling Heights Optimist Centre. Displaced residents are later moved to hotels or find their own alternate arrangements. Evacuated families with pets are able to bring them to the Boyle Community Centre.
City officials say the first residents are allowed to begin returning to their homes at 11:53 a.m. and by 7 p.m., all but 12 of the more than 100 homes evacuated are cleared for residents to return. Hydro and water are restored to impacted homes, aside from those still evacuated. It is announced that all homes on Woodman Avenue will be without gas until Friday morning.
Quebec and Charlotte streets reopen to traffic. Woodman Avenue remains closed, as does the portion of Queen Street between Quebec Street and Woodman Avenue.
London police announce Daniella Alexandra Leis, 23, of Kitchener, has been charged with four counts of impaired operation causing bodily harm and one count of impaired operation exceeding blood alcohol concentration.
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Friday, Aug. 16, 2019
As of 10 a.m., 10 of the more than 100 homes evacuated remain unsafe to return to.
As of 4:30 p.m., just eight of the evacuated homes remain unsafe — all on Woodman Avenue.
Demolition work begins in the evening. The city says gas services are expected to resume on Friday.
The City of London pegs the total damage at $10- to $15-million.
Cleanup ramps up, the community rallies together
Aug. 17-18, 2019
By early Saturday morning, city officials say debris from the explosion “has been cleared from roads and sidewalks in the affected area, and emergency services have left the site.” Five homes that were cleared for re-entry are still without gas but Enbridge “is coordinating the return of service directly with the remaining homes.”
The injured firefighter is said to be in “serious but stable condition.”
Homes at 448 and 452 Woodman Ave. — the two houses neighbouring the one that exploded — are demolished by city crews.
Aug. 20, 2019
A benefit concert draws hundreds to Aeolian Hall and crowds continue to gather outside of the venue after the building reaches capacity.
Aug. 21, 2019
Officials say of the seven people taken to hospital, only one remains in hospital — a firefighter in serious but stable condition.
The Old East Village Community Association (OEVCA) says initial relief of $50,000 will be distributed throughout the next week to those impacted by the explosion.
Aug. 22, 2019
London police lay eight additional charges against Leis — four counts each of impaired operation over 80 mg causing bodily harm and criminal negligence causing bodily harm — and withdraw the charge of impaired operation exceeding blood alcohol concentration because “it is included in the new impaired operation over 80 mg causing bodily harm charges.” In total, Leis faces 12 charges.
The London Professional Fire Fighters Association (LPFFA) announces a “Get Well” campaign for the injured firefighter, collecting physical cards or messages through text or email.
Aug. 23, 2019
The City of London confirms the injured firefighter has been released from hospital.
Aug. 25, 2019
The London Muslim Mosque holds a fundraiser BBQ for the Old East Village community.
Court proceedings begin
Sept. 4, 2019
Daniella Leis does not attend the first court date in the case. Law student Alex Dobson stands-in as legal counsel for the day. Leis is being represented by London lawyer Richard Braiden, but Dobson told Global News that he was unable to make it due to a funeral. Dobson requested an adjournment and the next court date was set for Oct. 2.
Oct. 2, 2019
Leis makes her first physical appearance in a London courthouse, where she hears a reading of the Highway Traffic Act and is informed that she will not be able to drive a motor vehicle.
An adjournment request from Braiden to allow him to receive and review the disclosure surrounding the case is approved and the next court date is set for Nov. 6.
Nov. 6, 2019
Leis does not appear in court and Braiden is also absent. Dobson is there instead and asks the Crown for another delay in the case to receive further disclosure, saying that an initial further disclosure request had been sent to the wrong email. The case is held over until Dec. 4.
Dec. 4, 2019 – March 18, 2020.
Several more court dates are scheduled, but changes to the court system resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic impact the March 18 date. The case is now set to resume virtually on Oct. 14.
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