Explosion kills Arundel woman

A 72-year-old Anne Arundel County woman died last night and two others were injured in an apparent propane explosion at the family's house in the 300 block of Poplar Road in Millersville.

Anne Arundel County fire officials said Betty Sawyer was thrown from the split-level house - which was destroyed - into the front yard about 7:10 p.m. and was pronounced dead at the scene.


Also injured in the blast were Sawyer's husband, Robert, 74, and the couple's 40-year-old son, Thomas Nelson Sawyer - known as Nelson - who family members said was doing work in the basement when the explosion occurred.

Both Robert and Nelson Sawyer were flown by helicopter to the burn unit at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center in Baltimore. They were in critical condition last night.


"I saw the house - it blew up from the inside," said Derric Schaefer, 19, who was eating dinner at his house across the street when the explosion occurred. "The house swelled. It looked like a balloon. It happened in an instant, but it seemed like slow motion."

Derric and his father, Fred, ran over after the explosion to help their neighbors.

"I was holding her hand, telling her to fight, to fight," Derric Schaefer said of Mrs. Sawyer, who was a retired postal employee.

Fire officials said they believe that Nelson Sawyer, who works for the U.S. Postal Service in Annapolis, was apparently ventilating a leak in a propane tank when the explosion occurred. He was found in the basement of the home, trying to free himself from the rubble.