Marengo, Ia. – A Marengo man crawled through a window of his shattered home to call 911 after an explosion early Friday that authorities say was likely caused by a natural gas buildup.
The blast leveled most of David Lee Stevens’ two-story farmhouse when he got out of bed to turn on a light switch shortly before 1:30 a.m.
Stevens, 73, suffered burns on most of his body, relatives said. But the injuries are not life-threatening.
Stevens, whose leg was injured in the explosion, crawled through a bathroom window and limped to a telephone in a shed on his property, according to a relative who asked not to be identified.
“It was a gas buildup,” Iowa County Sheriff Nick Roggentien said. “He calmly called it in that his home had exploded and that he might need an ambulance.”
Stevens was taken by helicopter to University Hospitals in Iowa City, where relatives said Stevens was in good spirits in the hospital’s burn unit.
Relatives said doctors told them Stevens might not need extensive surgery.
“He’s expected to make a full recovery,” Roggentien said. “David’s a pretty tough individual, so I’m sure he’ll do it soon.”
Fire investigators picked through what was left of the home Friday afternoon. Wood-splintered walls and beams littered the property and pink insulation, a microwave, a stove and other debris were in nearby fields.
Roggentien said the house, which Stevens’ parents owned for decades before he took over, is a total loss.
RAGBRAI riders en route from Marengo to Williamsburg slowed down to gawk at the scene.
Cathy Root, a member of Marengo’s RAGBRAI committee, said riders and residents were confused because some thought Stevens planned to host the Marengo Kiwanis Club pancake breakfast on Friday morning. The breakfast took place across the street and up a hill from Stevens’ home, said Janis Hinrichs, a Kiwanis member who knows Stevens.
Hinrichs said people three miles away felt the explosion.
“It’s just one of those terrible things that happens,” she said.