WEST HAVERSTRAW, N.Y. (PIX11)—A townhouse was blown to bits Monday in Rockland County, seriously injuring two firefighters, destroying one family's home, and sending hundreds of neighbors out into the cold.
Police say the family of four who lived at the Zarriello Lane townhouse lost everything, but they are lucky to be alive. It seems a Verison FIOS installation crew hit a nearby gas main after 12 p.m. According to a spokesperson for Orange and Rockland Utilities, the workers were installing Verizon FIOS service to the entire condominium complex when their three-foot metal drilling tool struck the gas main.
Apparently, the contractor called 911 as well, prompting firefighters and utility workers to show up to evacuate neighbors. When volunteer firefighters Jerry Knapp and Ken Patterson arrived at the front door of the townhouse, the gas caused it to explode, blowing them back 25-30 feet, according to officials.
The explosion caused a gas-fed fire to rage. The two firefighters were taken by medical helicopter to Westchester County Medical Center. Fire Chief George Zayas says Knapp "has first and second degree burns to the facial area, a couple of broken ribs and lacerations..." He says Patterson has "a broken cheekbone, and first and second degree burns around the facial and neck area." Zayas says Knapp and Patterson's injuries aren't life-threatening.
Two utility workers were also hurt.
Ninety-four nearby homes were evacuated. Many found shelter, warmth and food at the local bowling alley, Hi-Tor Lanes, where Red Cross was helping as well.
Evacuee Heidi Fadl heard it all,"All of a sudden...boom. Big, big explosion." Fadl waited for hours to get back inside her home, and had to go without much-needed medication.
Utility crews worked late into the night to test for gas in each home, before turning the lights back on. West Haverstraw Chief of Police Charles Miller said he's never seen anything like this in 30 years here, "Disaster, this could have been a disaster."
JAY DOW CONTRIBUTED TO THIS ARTICLE