Columbus, OH – The little girl was in bed on Tuesday morning when her great-grandfathers South Side house exploded around her, blowing the roof high into the air and the front windows into the street.
In the moments after the blast, but before the rubble erupted in flames, the 3-year-old remained in bed, quiet as could be, witnesses said. She had only some singed hair and minor burns.
I guess the good Lord above was watching over that baby, said neighbor Eddie Justice, one of many who rushed over to the home to see if they could help.
Justice assisted the girls great-grandfather, Jack Morris, from the wrecked house in the 800 block of Lock Avenue.
Morris, 69, also escaped the blast without life-threatening injuries. He had some serious burns to his left arm, but neighbors found him still standing in an area of the house that hadnt collapsed entirely, Justice said.
Morris was taken to the burn unit at Ohio State Universitys Wexner Medical Center. His great-granddaughter, whose name has not been released by fire officials, went to Nationwide Childrens Hospital. Her injuries were largely superficial, Battalion Chief Tracy Smith said.
The child is fine, she said.
Fire investigators determined on Tuesday afternoon that the incident was an accidental gas explosion, Smith said. Other details remain under investigation, and the Fire Division is working with Columbia Gas employees to pin down the specifics.
Based on the evidence, we believe there was a release of gas that was the result of alterations on the customer-owned gas line within the house, beyond Columbias influence and jurisdiction, the company said in a prepared statement. These alterations were not performed by Columbia Gas.
Columbia Gas is responsible for maintaining natural-gas lines only from the main to the meter, spokeswoman Kelli Newinsky said. Lines inside a house are the homeowners responsibility.
Neighbor James Stepp said he was in his driveway when the house blew up. He watched the roof fly into the air and fall back onto the collapsing house.
The front windows are lying out there by them fire trucks, he said.
Stepp, Justice and others rushed to the debris pile to search for survivors. Morris, who often babysits the girl, was just standing in a daze, Justice said.
I think he was trying to look for the baby, he said.
Bystanders, including Morris children who live on either side of his house, helped lead him and the toddler from the debris.
By the time Columbus firefighters arrived, Morris had reunited with the girl and was carrying her down the street, Smith said.
Christopher Hutchison, 36, is a cousin to Twila Morris, Jack’s wife, and lives across the street.
Hutchison was among those who ran to help.
There’s nothing like holding the arm of the man and having the skin tear away, Hutchison said.
Late Tuesday night, Hutchinson said that Morris had been released from the hospital, telling people he had to go back to the house.
They told him, you don’t have a house to get back to, Hutchison said.
Hutchison said he understands that the toddler would be spending the night at Children’s Hospital just to be sure she was OK.
There was a fire right after the explosion and the house was engulfed within minutes.
The rest of it went up in flames, he said.
The blast was the second significant gas explosion in Franklin County this year. On March 21, an explosion leveled an Upper Arlington home and damaged 28 others. Eight of those were deemed uninhabitable.
The state utility commission faulted Columbia Gas with that explosion, saying the company did not disconnect an old gas-service line.
Columbia Gas did not receive any calls about gas odor from Lock Avenue or the surrounding streets over the past few weeks, Newinsky said.