Vernon, CT – State police have concluded that the explosion that destroyed a Vernon home in August and sent six people to the hospital was caused by a propane leak from a quarter inch hole in the connection between a gas dryer in the basement and a propane tank.
But the family that survived the explosion isn’t buying the conclusion and have hired attorneys to pursue alternative theories for the explosion. Farmington attorney John Laudati issued a statement Thursday indicating they have consulted with independent experts and shared their personal experiences and knowledge regarding the events leading up to the explosion.
Propane Cited In Vernon House Blast; Condition Of Child Victims Improves
“At this time, we respectfully disagree with the conclusion of the Connecticut State Police and have directed our attorneys to fully investigate the cause of the explosion and specifically, to explore alternative theories which we feel are more consistent with the facts and information that have been presented,” the statement said.
State police were unable to determine what ignited the gas because of the catastrophic damage to the home and multiple potential ignition sources. Police could not eliminate electrical activity or a gas heater as possible ignition sources.
There were seven people, including four children, inside 4 East St. when the explosion occurred. Many of them were buried under the rubble and had to be rescued by Vernon firefighters. Several of them suffered multiple injuries ranging from a lacerated spleen to a broken leg.
Steven Kersetter, the owner of 4 East Street, who was in his bedroom on the second floor when the explosion occurred, offered investigators from the State Police Fire & Explosions Unit his own theory on what happened.
Kersetter said in a written statement that the children were cooking chicken nuggets and french fries on the gas range and left the pan with food on it on top of it. Kersetter said he thinks the family dog “probably jumped up on the stove to get the chicken nuggets and turned the propane range on.”
Vernon House Explosion
Kersetter said the explosion, which sounded like a loud “rumble,” rousted him from his bed.
“I saw the rear wall of the bedroom had blown out. As I went through the wall and into the backyard I saw that my house was in pieces,” Kersetter said. “I could hear my families voices coming from underneath the debris.”
Kersetter frantically tried digging through the debris looking for his family. Two children extricated themselves and ran to a neighbor’s yard. Firefighters from several towns arrived and quickly located and removed everyone from the debris.
Kersetter filed an insurance claim for the damage the night of the explosion. The state police report states that All-State Insurance inspectors arrived the day after the explosion and provided previously taken photographs of the three propane tanks stored in the backyard that provided liquid gas to the home.
The explosion was so powerful that debris were blown more than 100 yards in several directions into neighbors yards.
The explosion blew out the 1,920 square-foot home’s walls and caused the second and first floors to collapse. The house’s front door was blown 50 feet across East Street into a neighbor’s yard.
A neighbor responding to the explosion told state police he saw three propane tanks on the ground in the backyard and turned them all off. He said all of them were on and when he turned one of them off he got a brief whiff of gas.
The three tanks were all hooked into different appliances. In addition to the dryer, tanks also were connected to a gas range in the kitchen and the heater in a first floor room.
In an interview from her hospital bed, Nicole Kersetter told investigators that she had only gotten home a few minutes earlier and didn’t notice any smell of gas. She told investigators she wasn’t sure of she used the dryer that day.
Nicole Kersetter added she had noticed “that recently the clothing dryer didn’t seem to be working properly and that she would sometimes have to run the dryer for another cycle because it didn’t dry clothes like it had before.”
The explosion destroyed most of the family’s possessions. In the statement, the family thanked all the individuals and agencies that assisted with everything from providing housing to clothes for the children to wear.
“As we have not had a formal opportunity to thank all those who provided help and assistance to our family during that time, we wanted to send a very heartfelt thank you and extend our deepest gratitude to everyone for the support, love and most generous contributions and donations,” the statement read. “Our family is eternally grateful and will remember always how the community came together to take care of us. Thank you.”