Henry Co. blast kills woman, injures man

Neighbors pull victim from burning debris

9/25/2013
BY MIKE SIGOV
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Neighbors watch as firefighters search through the rubble of a home in Liberty Township, near Liberty Center, Ohio. A school bus was 200 feet away from the house when the building exploded.
Neighbors watch as firefighters search through the rubble of a home in Liberty Township, near Liberty Center, Ohio. A school bus was 200 feet away from the house when the building exploded.

LIBERTY CENTER, Ohio — Mallory Vollmar, 12, was having breakfast with her father and four siblings, ready to go to school, when she saw a neighbor’s house explode as she looked on through a sliding glass door that was ajar.

“We were in our dining room looking outside, and then we just saw it blow off,” said the Vollmar youth, a sixth-grade student at Liberty Center Local Schools. “I was shaking, and I fell. We were all screaming. We did not know what happened. Then we looked outside [again] and it was all down.”

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The girl spoke Wednesday morning at the scene of a house explosion in Liberty Township, standing amid a quarter-mile-wide debris field. The explosion and the fire that ensued killed a woman and injured a man, authorities said. The victims were identified as Judy Garwood, 63, who lived near Holgate, and Steven Collins, 72, who lived at the home.

Mr. Collins was transferred to Mercy St. Vincent Medical Center in Toledo where he was reported in fair condition. The body of the woman was later recovered from the debris. Neighbors said the woman was the man’s girlfriend.

The cause of the 7:25 a.m. explosion is undetermined, but a gas leak is suspected, according to the Henry County Sheriff’s Office. Nick Nye, deputy director of the county Emergency Management Agency, said a propane tank at the scene was intact.

Lyndsey Kregulka, 23, one of several neighbors at the scene, said she and Tyler Murray, 20, another neighbor, 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. Ms. Kregulka said she and her father then drove to the intersection, which was about 200 yards from the scene.

OBJECT“I sprinted from down the road to the house, and no one was here yet,” she said. She and Mr. Murray then found Mr. Collins shaken but conscious near a barn on the property and carried him to the road.

When Ms. Kregulka reached him, he kept saying “Get Judy, get Judy,” she said, noting that Ms. Garwood was his fiancee. She said Mr. Collins told her that he heard his fiancee screaming when he was thrown from the blast, but when Ms. Kregulka and others returned to the scene, “we didn’t hear anything.”

“We tried,” Ms. Kregulka said. “We moved him down to the road, and we came back, and we yelled and yelled, and we heard nothing."

Neighbor Jean Sonnenberg said she had put her dogs into cages after letting them out about 7:15 a.m. when she went back to bed.

“I wasn’t in bed 5 or 10 minutes, and all of a sudden, there is just this huge loud noise, and stuff just started flying, like glassware, everything,” Ms. Sonnenberg, 51, said. “I looked out the bedroom window, and I could see stuff flying through the air, burning.”

A Liberty Center school bus filled with children in grades kindergarten through 12 was stopped just 200 yards from the home when it exploded, but no one on the bus was injured, said Tracy Busch, director of the Henry County Emergency Management Agency.

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

Firefighters search through debris after an explosion at a home in Liberty Township Wednesday. The cause of the explosion is undetermined but a gas leak is suspected.
Firefighters search through debris after an explosion at a home in Liberty Township Wednesday. The cause of the explosion is undetermined but a gas leak is suspected.

Michael Duchesne, a spokesman for the state fire marshal, said Wednesday the cause of the explosion in Troy Township remains under investigation.

Troy Township fire Chief Randy Woodruff said Wednesday there were no additional details about the cause of the explosion last week other than what was known that day, Sept. 17. He said there definitely was a liquid propane leak, more than likely inside the home, but it is “unknown what sparked it.”

Killed in the explosion in Troy Township were Andrew Schulte, 37, and his mother Jahn Richards, 62.

Injured were Nicholas Schulte, 34, Desiree Goyner, 34, and James Richards, 52. The injured were taken to Mercy St. Vincent Medical Center in Toledo; Mr. Richards and Ms. Goyner were discharged last week, and a hospital spokesman said Wednesday Mr. Schulte was in fair condition.

No rulings have been made in the causes of the deaths, according to the coroners’ offices in Wood and Lucas counties.

Mrs. Richards’ body was found in the area of the master bedroom and bathroom, where she reportedly was taking a shower about the time of the explosion.

Mr. Collins told neighbors that Ms. Garwood was in the shower when the explosion happened Wednesday.

Contact Mike Sigov at: sigov@theblade.com, 419-724-6089, or on Twitter @mikesigovblade.