Detroit, MI – All that remains of a three-story house in southwest Detroit where a 15-year-old girl died is bricks, charred slats of wood and a string of broken holiday lights.
Detroit Police Sgt. Mark Hetherington patrolled the area in the 2100 block of Vinewood on Sunday afternoon to make sure no one stole the charred belongings of the family of five who lived there before the Christmas morning explosion and fire.
“I’m making sure no one can come by and help themselves,” he said.
Neighbors tried to help the family when the home exploded about 2 a.m. Saturday, but said they could do nothing to help the family or save the 15-year-old girl.
She and her two siblings were taken to Children’s Hospital of Michigan in Detroit for treatment. Her parents were admitted to Detroit Receiving Hospital, according to fire dispatcher Jesse Davis. The explosion and fire were most likely caused by a natural gas leak, fire department dispatchers said. But the cause of the blast has not officially been determined.
Neighbor Gary Gonzalez, 39, said he was sleeping Saturday when he heard a loud boom. He woke to find everything around him shaking.
At first, he thought a car had plowed into the industrial brick building next to him. And then, he looked across the street, to the lone house on the northwest corner of Vinewood and Toledo. He realized he was wrong.
The last time he and his neighbor, Ignacio Hernandez, 29, had seen the house, it had been fixed up and painted the color of coffee.
On Christmas, it looked as though it had imploded.
“When I looked up, the house was half its size,” Gonzalez said. “I was in disbelief. Of all the days it could happen, for it to be Christmas Day.”
Gonzalez remembers sprinting out of the house in his sweatpants, grabbing a jacket along the way. But in the minute it took him to reach the house, flames had started eating away at the brick and wood frame.
Minutes later, firefighters arrived.
Jacqueline Trost, a spokeswoman for Children’s Hospital, said two of the children had been released in good condition Sunday morning. A third child, she said, had died. Trost said she could not release the names of family members because of privacy laws.
Karen Wood, spokeswoman for Detroit Receiving, said that as of Sunday afternoon, the mother had been treated and released and that the children’s father was still in the hospital but in good condition.