» Video: Two dead in house explosion
SCHODACK, N.Y.-- Two young women were killed and a 10-year-old girl was injured when a thunderous explosion destroyed a rural home early Sunday.
The blast was so powerful that it tossed pieces of the dwelling high above treetops and left debris strewed in branches yards away.
Exactly what triggered the explosion at 900 Van Hoesen Road remained under investigation late Sunday, but early findings suggest a faulty propane-fueled water heater is to blame, officials said.
"The preliminary conclusions are that the explosion originated as the result of ignition of propane vapors in the basement of the residence," said John Morgan, resident agent in charge of the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives in Albany. "The exact source of the ignition remains under investigation at this point."
The names of those killed and injured in the explosion were still being withheld by Schodack Police as the investigation continued. Officials would only confirm that two women were killed and a girl suffered "nonlife-threatening" injuries. All three were in the home at the time of the blast, they said.
The lone survivor was buried under debris and had to be rescued by others in the area.
Neighbor Jim Delfavero was stunned by the scene when he reached the wood-frame house, which had stood alone in a clearing surrounded by tall pines.
"It looked like someone took a wrecking ball to it," he said. "It was like a bomb hit it. It was just a foundation with stuff in it, and stuff everywhere -- insulation in the trees."
Delfavero, 41, and his 4-year-old son had been preparing for a bike ride shortly before 11 a.m. when they heard a sound that his wife, Kara Smith, described as "like a sonic boom." Smith said she was in the basement exercising and that the vibration was so strong she initially thought the problem was in her family's house.
Delfavero ran across the street and down a quarter-mile dirt driveway after hearing the noise and seeing the pieces of the house fly up above the treetops.
"I started calling 'hello, hello,' " he said, and heard someone -- a young girl -- call out in response.
She was trapped, half-buried in the rubble near a bathtub, Delfavero said.
He and another neighbor were working to free her, amid the smell of propane, when firefighters arrived on the scene and advised them to clear out of the area, he said.
While they were there, a small fire broke out in the rubble and was quickly extinguished by firefighters, Delfavero said.
Schodack Police, State Police and hundreds of volunteer firefighters from dozens of departments sorted through the remains of the destroyed house for hours Sunday afternoon, sweating under intense sunshine in temperatures that rose above 90.
They worked in 20-minute shifts and were cooled during breaks with towels soaked in icy water and air-conditioned trucks brought to the scene.
A backhoe and bulldozer were brought to the site to aid those who removed lumber, hunks of shredded insulation and other debris in a hand-to-hand relay line. Clothing and other personal items remained strewed about, clinging to tree limbs.
Occasionally, a volunteer broke away to carry a small item from the rubble. A school portrait of a girl with long brown hair was placed on a table at a cooling station.
"When we find things like that, we try to set them aside for the family," said Castleton Fire Company Chief Gibson Capparella.
Woodruff can be reached at 454-5093 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Republished with the permission of the Albany Times Union.