Monroe, NJ – Police don’t believe foul play was involved in a violent explosion Thursday that rocked a house from its foundation and blew the roof off.
They are attributing the blast to a natural gas leak, said Capt. Richard Livingston of the Monroe Police Department.
But South Jersey Gas asserts fire investigators and company employees are still investigating the scene at 167 Sharps Road and have yet to determine the source of the explosion that injured the only person in the house at the time.
“With no source of the explosion, it’s difficult to say natural gas was the cause,” said Marissa Brooks, a South Jersey Gas spokeswoman.
Gloucester County Fire Marshal Bill Rieger couldn’t be reached for comment.
The home’s owner, William Saucier, 49, sustained burns mainly to his hands and face and was flown to Cooper University Hospital in Camden for treatment. He was then transferred to Temple University Hospital in Philadelphia, which is standard procedure for burn victims, Livingston said.
He described Saucier’s burns as “not life-threatening” and noted he was able to get out of the home on his own.
“God was sitting on his shoulder,” Livingston said of Saucier’s survival.
The man told authorities he was asleep on the sofa when the blast happened at 2:57 p.m. He lives in the house with his wife, Jill, and possibly a son.
“It actually lifted the roof straight up. The reason we know that is the nails in the rafters weren’t bent at all,” Livingston said. “The walls buckled and the roof came straight down on top of them.”
A fire also broke out but was quickly extinguished.
Some items stayed put like nothing ever happened while other things such as the Christmas tree were melted or singed, the captain said.
It appears the gas collected in the one-story home’s attic and blew when something ignited it, generating in Livingston’s words “the worse house explosion I’ve seen in the 29 years I’ve been here.”
“It could be a million things. It could be the heater coming on. It could be anything,” he said. “The investigation found no real evidence of foul play.”
Livingston discounted some media reports Thursday that stated William Saucier wasn’t allowed in the house. The captain said the married couple had been having problems but noted there weren’t any restraining orders on file restricting Saucier from his wife or home.
Police posted an officer at the house overnight to secure the family’s valuables.
Construction crews spent hours Thursday reinforcing the roof, which was extremely unstable, so that the Saucier family and friends could retrieve as many belongings as possible, Livingston said. A backhoe was brought in to shore up some of the walls.
By Friday afternoon, the building’s roof and primary walls were down and it looked like a hurricane had hit it.
People scurried about the property to salvage what furniture and other things they could. A number of items were still intact.
South Jersey Gas has had people at the scene since 3:18 p.m. Thursday and the company is fully cooperating with the investigation, Brooks said.
“We’ve tested all the facilities externally near the explosion and everything was found to be functioning properly,” she said.