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Luxury apartments evacuated as minivan plows into building

Residents of a dozen luxury apartments at the Promontory Point complex in Newport Beach were evacuated after a silver minivan plowed into a guard rail, snapped off a gas meter and water line and slammed into a building.

The collision caused a gas leak, which forced an hours-long evacuation of the East Coast Highway apartments.

First responders helped the driver out of the car when they arrived about 5:30 p.m. Monday, said Newport Beach Fire Department Capt. Glenn White. The driver, identified only as an older man, was not injured.

White said the minivan broke through a guard rail, traveled about 15 feet down an embankment and "snapped off a gas meter and a water line." In a news release sent late Monday night, authorities said the building sustained "minor damage."

Firefighters rescued two small white dogs from a neighboring building while their owners were out, he said, after searching nearby apartments and using a reverse 911 call.

Southern California Gas Company crews investigated the affected line, the news release said. Southern California Edison representatives were also on-site to help mitigate damage. White couldn't estimate when residents would be allowed to return to their homes as of about 7:15 p.m., but authorities continued to monitor the gas leak.

Steve Kenyon, 64, who stood just outside a police line blocking off the two affected buildings, said he had been watching TV in his apartment when he heard a "a boom and the water heater go, 'pshhh.'"

He said he had no idea what had happened.

"I ran out and saw the car down there," Kenyon said, then tried to dial 911.The driver looked "shaken up," Kenyon said. White said the man was evaluated by paramedics but refused further treatment.

Nearby, Jennifer Maresh and Michael Beck observed the scene from their car.In their laps were Grover and Grommit — a maltese and a havanese Shih Tzu mix, respectively — whom firefighters had plucked from the pair's apartment.

"We just came back from dinner and saw all this," Maresh said.

She said the pups had been in their cage when a firefighter brought them down.

"I know they must've been scared," Maresh said.

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jill.cowan@latimes.com

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