Bathroom light switch sparks explosion in Point Pleasant Beach home

POINT PLEASANT BEACH, N.J. (WABC) -- A natural gas explosion at a home in New Jersey left a man hospitalized with burns overnight Monday.

At about 1:40 a.m., authorities responded to a home on Cooks Lane in Point Pleasant Beach for a structure fire.

They found the victim outside the residence alert and conscious but with burns to an estimated to 40 to 50 percent of his body.

A raging fire consumed the cottage when the blast went off. The couple in the main house recorded it.

"Me and my wife were in bed and all of a sudden the whole house shook like an explosion. It was like a bomb went off," said Brian Kiddie, a Point Pleasant Beach resident.

In the cottage at the time, was 47-year-old commercial fisherman Kurt Wagner.

"We understand he smelled that gas, so he was getting ready to take corrective action, and the fire occurred," said Arson Det. Mitchell Remig, of the Ocean County Prosecutor's Office.

His one wrong move was that he switched on the lights, causing a spark that ignited the gas that was leaking throughout the cottage.

"It's a little scary. You take those things for granted. They tell you not to, but when you're in the moment, you want to turn on the lights," said Donna Kiddie, a Point Pleasant Beach resident.

"By the time I got downstairs, the guy that was living there, got blown out the front door, he was rolling on the lawn next door," Brian Kiddie said.

Neighbors called 911, and Wagner who was severely burned was taken to St. Barnabas Hospital.

New Jersey Natural Gas checked their main lines, and found no leaks. They are now focusing on the cause likely coming from a source inside the home.

They remind everyone, if gas is leaking any spark can ignite it.

"Turning on the lights, using a cell phone, anything. So the most important thing you can do is if you smell natural gas, leave the premises immediately," said Michael Kimmey, of NJ Natural Gas.

Wagner's boat captain surveyed the damage and was amazed his coworker and friend survived.

"He's 100 percent, you tell him you need something, he does it for you," said Manuel Viana, Wagner's coworker.

Wagner is currently listed in stable condition.

New Jersey Natural Gas issued reminders regarding potential gas leaks:

Since natural gas has no scent, a strong odor that smells like rotten eggs is added to help you detect possible leaks. If you smell natural gas:

- Remove any cigarettes or other smoking materials from the area and then extinguish them
- Do NOT use matches, lighters or other open flames or activate light switches, electrical appliances, flashlights, doorbells or even garage door openers, as they could create a spark.
- Do NOT use telephones (cellular included) on the premises where the leak is suspected. Phones can create a spark.
- Evacuate everyone from the building immediately and then call NJNG from a safe location at 800-GAS-LEAK (800-427-5325). Let us know where you are.
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