All victims of Vernon home explosion expected to survive

An excavator is already on the scene tearing up debris from a home explosion in Vernon Thursday afternoon (WTNH / Kent Pierce)

VERNON, Conn. (WTNH) — Investigators are back in Vernon Friday trying to figure out what may have caused a home to explode and collapse with seven people inside.

It happened on East Street Thursday afternoon. Seven people were home. Amazingly, officials say all of them are going to survive, thanks to quick work by first responders.

Original Story: Vernon home explodes, collapses with people trapped inside

“It just blew up,” said Vernon resident Laura Ricci. “So we thought the worst, of course, and then we come to find out that everyone is okay.”

Which is amazing when you see the pile of rubble that used to be number 4 East Street.

Vernon Police Public Information Officer Lieutenant William Meier says the firefighters are the real heroes, rescuing four people who were trapped inside.

There was a team of heroic firefighters that, at much risk to their safety, entered this unstable home, a home that could have collapse further at any moment, and pulled those four victims out of this rubble.”

Web Extra: Investigation update from Vernon Police

We talk about things figuratively shaking a neighborhood. This explosion literally shook the neighborhood. But this tight-knit community is working together to help the family.

“Phone calls came in, pastors from the church are calling, asking what they can do,” said neighbor Laura Prouty. “Town businesses at the other end of the street are calling, so everybody is really pulling together.”

The question now is why this happened. The first thought was a natural gas leak, but Lieutenant Meier said it’s still not clear if there was any natural gas service at the house.

You know, I haven’t been able to confirm that there was gas service to the house. I know that there were some propane tanks at the rear of the house, some tanks that I saw, but I don’t know what role, if any, those tanks played in this.”

With light in the sky, the community can see what is left of this house. Now, local, state, and federal authorities are all working together to investigate the cause.

Lieutenant Meier says the way they’re going to do that is by going through a list of things that did not cause the explosion, and coming up with the answer by process of elimination.

Vernon police are now releasing the 911 calls, which describe what neighbors saw.

Dispatch: Vernon police 911.
Caller: Hi, there was just a huge explosion in Vernon on East Street. A house just collapsed.

Callers already knew the situation was serious.

Caller: Looks like a house blew up.
Dispatch: Is it on fire?
Caller: No, no. It crumbled.
Dispatch: It just crumbled?
Caller: There’s smoke coming out.
Dispatch: There’s smoke coming out?
Caller: They need people here now.

Soon people were there to help. Vernon Fire Chief Bill Call thinks there were more than 220 responders in all.

“There isn’t a local hero here,” he said. “This was a cooperative effort of all the agencies that responded. And there were a lot.”

Crews also had help from some of the neighbors who wanted lend a hand. They were concerned for the people trapped inside, and for those who were there to help them.

“A number of local businesses stepped up to bring in food for the workers, and especially cold bottled water,” said Call.

Four of the victims taken to the hospital were children. They were taken to Connecticut Children’s Medical Center. One has been released, one is in fair condition and the other two are in good condition as of Friday. Two adults were taken to Hartford Hospital, where they are in the ICU. The seventh person who was home refused treatment.

Once the investigation is done, all of the debris will have to be carted away.

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