Eastlake, OH – An elderly couple were badly injured Wednesday night when their three-bedroom home on Lake Shore Boulevard exploded.

The couple, Frank H. and Alice Pitchler, both 86, were taken to LakeWest Hospital in Willoughby, then flown by helicopter to MetroHealth Medical Center in Cleveland.

Their conditions were unknown at press time.

The preliminary assessment is that a natural-gas leak caused the explosion, which occurred about 9:30 p.m., said Eastlake Fire Chief Ted Whittington.

The home was leveled, and the explosion hit with such force that it shattered windows and damaged the roofing of nearby homes. The blast was heard and felt several miles away. Some originally thought it was an earthquake.

“It looks like a tornado hit it,” Eastlake Mayor Ted Andrzejewski said of the house. “It’s just debris. It’s just rubble.”

Dominion East Ohio gas crews were on the scene and turned off the natural gas, which was still on while the mayor was there shortly after the explosion.

“You can see where the natural gas is burning,” Andrzejewski said. “It looks like the eternal flame.”

The home, built in 1955 and remodeled in 1999, is near the Willoughby and Eastlake border.

Firefighters from both cities initially thought the blast was in their area and called for other departments to help.

Andrzejewski saw fire trucks on the scene from Mentor, Wickliffe and Willowick.

The blast also demolished the porch of a house across the street. A woman in one of the surrounding homes suffered injuries that appeared to be minor and was to be taken to a hospital.

Ryan Greene of Eastlake and Mike Fellenstein, who were driving nearby, and an off-duty firefighter who lives nearby pulled the couple out.

“We felt the explosion coming down the road,” Greene said.

They helped to remove a beam and some debris from Frank Pitchler. The damage was so extensive that they could not tell where in the house they found him.

“Whether it was the living room or bedroom, I couldn’t say,” Greene said. “You couldn’t even tell it was a house.”