Explosion levels townhouse in West Haverstraw

January 16, 2012 8:53:47 PM PST
A powerful explosion blew apart a townhouse in West Haverstraw moments after two firefighters knocked on the door to warn residents to get out.

People in West Haverstraw affected by the gas explosion earlier Monday should have their power and gas restored and be allowed home by midnight.

They're all inside Hi-Tor Lanes, sharing stories of what happened and what could have happened.

They were told to get out and given mere minutes to do it.

Firefighters evacuated more than 100 families surrounding Zarriello Lane in West Haverstraw.

Most found shelter Monday night at the bowling alley up the road.

Alicia Rodriguez heard, felt and saw the explosion from her home just across the street.

"Within a matter of minutes, I see this house go up. I was just in hysterics. I was thinking did the family get out?" Rodriguez said.

As Terry Finnegan waited for her children and grandchildren to pick her up from town hall, she told Eyewitness News all she could do was cry not knowing if her neighbors were killed.

"The house it just felt like an earthquake we just all ran out. It was a big ball of fire," Finnegan said.

This is the family who lost their home and walked away with their lives.

Firefighters Kenny Paterson and Jerry Knapp double checked their home to make sure no one was left behind.

The explosion tossed the volunteer firefighters 30 feet.

Fire Chief George Zayas told Eyewitness News they suffered first and second degree burns and broken bones.

"A lot of lives were saved and injuries. You read about those things in magazines but never think it'll happen here," Zayas said.

Police Chief Charles Miller confirms a Verizon subcontractor accidentally hit a gas main around 12:30 Monday afternoon.

An Orange and Rockland Utilities spokesperson says the company alerted their office about the job.

Detectives are checking that paperwork.

"We're treating it as a criminal investigation until we get the information we need. It may have been a simple accident," Miller said.

"You think it's all safe, they have everything under control. Accidents happen, it's just frightening," said Monica Toscono, an evacuee.

"Horrible. Thank God nobody got killed. It's horrible," said Jeannie Cammarata, an evacuee.

Two utility workers also suffered minor injuries.


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