Residents of eight apartments in the Promontory Point complex just off East Coast Highway and Jamboree Road in Newport Beach were evacuated Monday evening after a car plowed into a building causing a gas leak.
The driver, an older man, was pulled from his car by first responders shortly after 5:34 p.m., said Newport Beach Fire Capt. Glenn White.
He said the car, a silver minivan, traveled about 15 feet down an embankment and "snapped off a gas meter and a water line."
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 9-1-1 call.
A Southern California Edison representative investigated the affected line, White said. He couldn't estimate when residents would be allowed to return to their homes as of about 9:15 p.m. but White said the gas line was shut down around 9 p.m. and the Newport Beach Police Department was still investigating.
An earlier police department Nixle alert advised drivers to avoid the area for three hours.
Meanwhile, residents of the large, Irvine Co.-owned development clustered in the parking lot, and the smell of gas lingered in the air.
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 9-1-1.
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.
Beck said he wasn't too worried about the situation.
"If the worst comes to worst, we'll stay in a hotel for the night," he said with a shrug.