Akron, OH – Roofers Richard Harris, James Kelley and Brian Brown were counting their blessings Tuesday morning as they stood in the middle of Stanton Avenue looking at the angry clouds of gray and black smoke billowing from what was left of a nearby house.
“We were on the roof, right next door, doing a tear-off when I heard this loud boom. I look up and see fire and glass shooting everywhere,” Brown said.
“The wall blew out and glass was flying…. I got down off that roof and ran across the street,” Kelley said.
“I felt a real good tremor and then a big old explosion. I’m going to be saying my prayers (of thanks) every morning. Amen,” said Harris, throwing his hands in the air.
At about 10:20 a.m., the vacant, two-story, white aluminum-sided house at 325 Stanton — near the corner of Grant Street — exploded in flames from what authorities suspected was a natural gas leak from a faulty gas line.
One man, who was identified by a relative as George Richardson, was working in the house at the time of the explosion and was injured by the blast.
John Gordon, the public information officer with the Akron Fire Department, said the victim was transported to the burn unit at Akron Children’s Hospital.
Richardson was later reported in good condition. A hospital spokesman said he could be released as early as today.
The explosion blew out two walls of the house and engulfed the structure in flames.
A visibly shaken Starr Robinson, who was at the scene, said the house, along with several other adjacent properties, is owned by her father. She was nearby when the explosion occurred.
“My uncle had just gone in the house when it exploded,” Robinson said, adding that the house was vacant and work was being done to get it ready to be rented.
“It seemed like he had just gone in when he came running back out looking like he was delirious,” said Robinson.
She said her uncle is an epileptic.
“At first I thought he was having a seizure but then I saw he was badly burnt. His face was blistered and it looked like his hair had melted to his head. It was awful. It was scary,” Robinson said.
A firefighter at the scene said the victim (Richardson) was in the basement of the house doing work on the joists.
Chuck Binder, who was at a print shop at Stanton and Grant when the explosion occurred, said he was shocked when a burned man burst through the shop’s front door.
“He came running, saying `call the fire department,’ ” said Binder.
“He was lucky he wasn’t killed,” said Binder.
The explosion caused half of the house to collapse and knocked down electrical wires. At one point an Ohio Edison crew was called in to clear wires that had fallen across one of the fire trucks.
An hour after the explosion, the three roofers, all in their twenties, were still standing in the street looking at the pile of smoldering rubble.
“This is something I’m going to be telling my grandbabies about,” Kelley said.