The Baltimore Sun

BYLINE: Del Quentin Wilber

Six firefighters who were seriously injured in a fatal house explosion Sunday evening in Snow Hill continued to improve in the burn unit of the Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center in Baltimore, officials said.

The men were among eight firefighters and a resident of the house who required hospitalization after a blast that killed a utility company worker.Officials suspect the explosion was caused by a propane leak.

The blast caused a wall to collapse, crushing Ignatius D. Saienni, 38, an employee of the Eastern Shore Natural Gas Co.

Officials at Bayview said the firefighters there were conscious, able to move and in good spirits. They all had been visited by family members and were asking about each other.

“They wanted to know how their fellow firefighters were doing,” said Barbara Ward, the nurse manager for the hospital’s burn unit.

Listed in critical condition at Bayview yesterday were 2nd Lt. Warren Bevard,

Capt. William Heiser Jr. and Howard Stevens. All suffered second- and third-degree burns.

Jim Philips, vice president of the fire company, Assistant Chief Ray Wooten and Jack Moyer were listed in fair condition at the hospital.

Some of the firefighters will require surgery, hospital officials said.

A seventh firefighter, Scott Sylc, was discharged yesterday from Peninsula Regional Medical Center in Salisbury, where an eighth, Ed Smith, was listed in satisfactory condition, officials said.

Sadie Dryden, who lived in the Snow Hill house that exploded, was also listed in satisfactory condition at Peninsula.

Officials said they were trying to determine what caused propane to leak,ignite and explode about 5:30 p.m. Sunday in Dryden’s house in the 300 block of S. Bay St.

Twelve hours of heavy rain and flooding over the weekend, officials said, might have caused a leak in the gas line between the street and the meter on the outside of Dryden’s house. Officials suspect that a spark from an appliance or one produced when firefighters turned on fans to remove trapped propane might have ignited the gas.