San Antonio, TX- A powerful explosion destroyed a Southwest Side home early Tuesday afternoon, injuring two people and flinging chunks of debris into neighbors’ yards for blocks in every direction.
Virginia Mann and her boyfriend, Frank Nava, both 80, were inside when the house blew up, said Johnny Mann, her son. Both were in stable condition at Brooke Army Medical Center, he said.
Johnny Mann said a firefighter told him nobody should have survived the explosion in the home at Otto Street and McCauley Avenue.
It blew an entire wall off, caved in the roof and threw broken glass and shingles into surrounding streets and yards.
A preliminary investigation suggested a natural gas leak was the cause, officials said.
Johnny Mann said his mother had burns over 50 percent of her body and lots of swelling. She was being assisted by a breathing tube, while Nava was doing better, he said.
I don’t give a damn about the house, he said, holding back tears. Houses are replaceable. Lives aren’t.
Neighbors said it looked like a hurricane had swept through their neighborhood, targeting a single residence. Aside from the home’s occupants, nobody was reported injured.
People who helped the two victims out of the home reported smelling gas moments after the blast.
It sounded like a plane crashed, said Dorothy Moreno, 60, a neighbor who lives a block away. I heard the explosion and then I saw pieces of roof flying through the air.
Stunned residents rushed to help. Jacqueline Rodriguez, 23, heard the blast and wondered if a car had hit her front door. She ran across the street to Mann’s house and was the first to find the victims.
They were burned, but still sitting at a dining room table in a state of shock, surrounded by debris, their clothes and hair singed, she said.
The couple had been reading the paper, which was plastered on Nava’s arm, she said.
They were talking, she said. I escorted them out and got them away from the home. I sat them on a little bench.
Asked where she got the courage to approach the mangled wreckage, Rodriguez shrugged.
I didn’t think, I just went and did it, she said. It’s just something you do.
Lt. Ken Campbell of the San Antonio Fire Department’s Arson Bureau said the cause probably was a gas leak.
Right now the building is too structurally unsound to get inside and get an accurate determination of the cause, he said.
John Moreno, a CPS Energy spokesman, said a preliminary investigation found gas lines leading to the damaged home, as well as neighbors’ homes, were in good working condition. Those lines, he added, have been shut off.
That would suggest the explosion was caused by something in the home, he said, noting that the investigation was far from complete.
Moreno urged San Antonio residents to call 353-HELP if they smell a possible gas leak in their home.
Neighbors said Mann is a lovable neighborhood fixture, who is known for letting kids swim in her backyard pool and throwing a popular Halloween party on her front steps.
Her house, a neighbor said, was known to trick-or-treaters for having the best candy.
She’s a real sweet, church-going lady, her next door neighbor, Reuben S. Garcia, said. I’m surprised anyone made it out of there alive.