Explosion Collapses N.H. Tennis Court, One Dead

GRANTHAM, N.H. (AP) -- An explosion collapsed an elevated tennis court Sunday, killing one person and injuring at least three others at a private recreational community in central New Hampshire, authorities said.

The victims, all elderly, were removing snow from the outdoor platform tennis court around 2 p.m when the blast tossed them into the air, then buried them in rubble and snow.

Scott Irvine, a doctor who lives in the home closest to the court, said they searched for a missing man for about 20 minutes and found him buried in snow nearly 20 feet away. Irvine said he performed CPR at the scene and during a 25-minute ride to the hospital, but could not revive the man.

Two of the victims were blown over a 12-foot-high fence, said Fire Chief Bob Seavey.

Irvine said one man was treated at the scene, another was flown to Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center with critical injuries and a third suffered broken bones. He said he believed three of the men were in their 70s and one in his mid-60s.

Seavey said investigators don't know what caused the blast, but Irvine said one of the men told him a snowblower they were using might have severed a fuel line carrying propane used to heat the court's aluminum floor. He said a stream of fire was coming from a gas pipe when he arrived at the scene.

The aluminum platform, which had sat about four feet off the ground, was covered with about 20 inches of snow from a storm Friday night.

Seavey said it blew out in two directions. One man got out on his own, but two of the others were beneath a beam and part of the court.

Eastman is a recreational community including many doctors and retirees in Grantham, about 50 miles northwest of Concord. It has a golf course, 13 tennis courts, and miles of hiking and cross-country ski trails.