Police rule New Rochelle car explosion accidental

April 20, 2010 3:25:53 PM PDT
New York police say it was probably an accident - not a gangland hit - when a man turned the ignition key in his SUV and the vehicle exploded. New Rochelle Police Commissioner Patrick Carroll says there was no bomb in or on the car when it went up on Charles Street Monday night. He says investigators believe fumes from a fuel container were ignited.

Police say 70-year-old Francesco Perri, of Eastchester, was pulled from the Jeep Cherokee by passers-by, escaping with minor burns on his head and hand.

Police say the victim had spent three hours in a social club nearby. He said the man might have ben smoking and the fumes could have been ignited by the cigarette or by the car starting.

The force of the explosion could be seen in the blown out roof and doors. The frame was also charred by the flames that engulfed the vehicle.

"I was in my house around 11 o'clock last night and then I heard a big bang," one witness saud. "You could see flames about 10-feet high."

The FBI, ATF and Westchester County bomb squad all responded to the scene.

"The ATF and bomb squad found a melted can. It smells like gasoline, but we have to wait for a chemical analysis," said Lt. Christopher Hearle, of the New Rochelle Police Department. "We believe that might have been one of the causing factors of the explosion."

"You look at it and you would think someone wouldn't survive such an explosion, but he did," New Rochelle Police Commissioner Patrick Carroll said. "We're very thankful that he only suffered minor injuries."