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Published: Wednesday, 9/25/2013 - Updated: 11 months ago

Sheriff ID's victims in Liberty Center house explosion

BLADE STAFF
The scene of a house explosion near Liberty Center, Ohio, in Henry County. The scene of a house explosion near Liberty Center, Ohio, in Henry County.
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LIBERTY CENTER, Ohio -- The Henry County sheriff's office has identified the victims of a house explosion today that killed a woman and injured a man.

Judy Garwood, 63, of rural Holgate, died during the explosion. Homeowner Steven Collins, 73, was taken to Mercy St. Vincent Medical Center, Toledo, where he was listed in fair condition.

The cause is undetermined but a gas leak is suspected, according to the sheriff's office.

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The explosion in Henry County occurred at 7:27 a.m., leaving a quarter-mile-wide debris field in its path. Ms. Garwood was initially missing but her body was later recovered from the debris.

Mr. Collins was initially taken to Henry County Hospital, according to Tracy Busch, director of the Henry County Emergency Management Agency.

Officers from the Henry County Sheriff's Office and firefighters from four departments -- Liberty Center, Delta, Ridgeville, and Napoleon -- responded to the scene.

Lyndsey Kregulka, 23, one of several neighbors at the scene, said she and Tyler Murray, 20, were the ones who had pulled Mr. Collins from the burning debris. 

Ms. Kregulka said she was at home about a half mile down the road when she heard "the boom," walked outside and saw smoke. She said she and her father then drove to road intersection, about 200 yards from the scene.

There was a Liberty Center Local Schools' school bus filled with children in grades K through 12 stopped just 200 yards from the home that exploded at the time it happened but none of the children were injured, Mr. Busch said. The homes on either side of the destroyed home, which is at S-108 County Rd. 9, were evacuated and do have structural damage, Mr. Busch said.

Mr. Busch said counselors were at school to console the children who were on the bus and others who might need it. A reporter seeking comment was later turned away from the school buildings by school officials who refused comment. Kristi Thompson, the schools' superintendent, was unavailable for comment.

Shortly after 9:30 a.m., a dozen firefighters were seen combing a field across the street from the destroyed house with Mr. Busch confirming crews were looking for a woman who was staying at the home. About 90 minutes later, crews found the body of Ms. Garwood.

Today's explosion comes just over a week after a home exploded in Troy Township near Stony Ridge, Ohio, killing two people and injuring three.

Michael Duchesne, a spokesman for the state fire marshal, said the cause of the explosion in Troy Township remains under investigation. It will be several weeks, he said, before autopsy results are available, and the investigation into the cause would stay open until then at a minimum. He said the insurance company for the residence is still conducting its investigating as well.

Troy Township fire Chief Randy Woodruff said today there were no additional details about the cause of the explosion other than what was known that day, Sept. 17. There definitely was a liquid propane leak, more than likely inside the home, but it is "unknown what sparked it," he said. He said he had heard about the explosion in Henry County, calling it "horrific."

The explosion last week prompted some calls to propane providers from residents asking for safety inspections. 

Jeannie Detmer, the executive director of the American Red Cross Henry County chapter, said Red Cross volunteers were assisting two families with accommodations.

Liberty Center is about 30 miles southwest of Toledo.



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