Franklin Square, NY – After dismantling stove in Franklin Square home, fire officials say coupling connecting hose line to gas pipe was cause; KeySpan not at fault

BY Jennifer Smith, Newsday Staff Writer

Gas seeping out through a loose stove coupling caused the explosion that tore Joseph Sicari’s house inside out and left the Franklin Square resident with burns over 80 percent of his body, Nassau fire officials said yesterday.

“It’s just a terrible accident,” said Assistant Chief Fire Marshal John M. Livingston of the Nassau County Fire Marshal’s office.

Sicari, 79, told Nassau police that the fireball erupted when he lit a cigarette in his kitchen early Monday morning. After dismantling the scorched remains of the stove, investigators determined that the leak came from a coupling connecting a hose line to the gas pipe.

That finding contradicts an earlier statement from KeySpan spokeswoman Diana Parisi, who told reporters outside the gutted home on Monday that there was no indication natural gas had been involved in the explosion. Parisi said yesterday that her statement was based on early reports from the fire marshal and preliminary tests for leaks in the area.

While fiery blasts like the one in Franklin Square are unusual, at least five similar cases on Long Island have been blamed on natural gas or propane leaks.

KeySpan was not at fault in this case because the leak occurred inside the house, Livingston said. Tests supervised by the public service commission on Monday afternoon showed no leaks along the utility’s gas line. “Their responsibility ends at the gas meter,” he said.

KeySpan provides emergency response service to anyone who smells gas but it does not conduct nonemergency home safety checks, Parisi said. Last year the utility,which has 523,160 customers on Long Island, received about 25,000 odor and leak calls in the region. About 45 percent of those turned out not to be actual leaks.

Because natural gas has no smell, an odorant is added to help detect leaks.

“If you have a small but longterm gas leak, people become accustomed to the smell and may not notice it, especially with older people where the sense of smell may have deteriorated,” Livingston said.

Yesterday Sicari remained in critical condition at Nassau University MedicalCenter’s burn unit, a hospital spokeswoman said.