All victims of Vernon home explosion, collapse expected to survi - WFSB 3 Connecticut

All victims of Vernon home explosion, collapse expected to survive

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Multiple people were injured in a house explosion and collapse in Vernon. (WFSB) Multiple people were injured in a house explosion and collapse in Vernon. (WFSB)
VERNON, CT (WFSB) -

Eyewitness News has learned the identity of one of the victims in Vernon house explosion and collapse on Thursday night. 

Police released new information about their response to the incident during a 2:30 p.m. question and answer session.

During it, they revealed that all of the victims are expected to survive.

They also explained how harrowing the situation was.

"If you move something here, it might affect something here and cause further collapse, maybe even entrapping your own people," said Chief William Call, Vernon Fire Department.

Officials said a propane leak caused the explosion.

"It looks like a house just blew up. It crumbled. There's smoke coming out, they need people here now," said one person who dialed 911.

Propane tanks were located at the back of the house, but it's unclear if that triggered the blast.

"It was a horrible explosion," said Laura Ricci of Vernon. "They lost their house, they're good people. They're very good people."

When Call said he and firefighters pulled up to the house, his biggest concern was making sure no one was inside and that everyone was safe.

"In my mind I was thinking, try and communicate with the guys doing the work," he said. "At what point do we pull them out?"

Police said four people were inside the residence and two children were outside when it abruptly collapsed at about 4:15 p.m. All of the victims were rescued from the home around 6 p.m. and six were taken to hospitals.

Call said firefighters had to go in through the basement to get some of the victims. They were trapped on the first floor of the home.

Firefighters from Vernon, Ellington and Tolland were able to guide the victims out of the home.

"At one point, there were probably 220 people there," Call said.

"A true miracle everyone survived," Vernon Police Lt. William Meier said at a news conference on Friday morning. 

Four children, a 7-year-old boy, a 15 year-old girl, a 12 year-old girl and an 11 year-old girl, were taken to Connecticut Children's Medical Center on Thursday. Three of the four children were admitted to the hospital and one was already released from the hospital on Thursday. 

The 7-year-old boy and 15 year-old girl were in serious condition but was upgraded to good condition at Connecticut Children's Medical Center. Officials couldn't comment on the exact extent of their injuries.

"These types of injuries can be significant and often times do require surgical intervention and intensive unit level care," Dr. Brendan Campbell previously told Eyewitness News.

The 12 year-old girl and an 11 year-old girl were found outside the home when first responders arrived.

The firefighters who pulled the four victims from the rubble were assistant chief Stan Landry, Lt. Dave Williams as well as firefighters Rich Harrison, Warren Boulette and Michael Levasseur. 

"I really give a lot of credit to the Vernon Fire Department. There was a team of heroic firefighters that at much risk to their safety, entered this unstable home," Meier said. "A home that could could have collapsed further and pulled those four victims out of this rubble."

Police said a 23-year-old man and a 35-year-old Nicole Kerstetter were taken to Hartford Hospital where they were listed as being in critical condition. They were in intensive care, but expected to be okay.

The man is in stable condition and the female in critical condition.

A 60-year-old man was also found outside the home and refused treatment.

Investigators have not released the names of the children. Police did confirm many of the victims did live inside the home and were related to each other. There was one visitor among those injured. 

Two dogs died in the explosion. Police said they were inside the home at the time of the explosion.

Police were on the scene and held a news conference on Friday morning. The incident remains under investigation by state and local fire marshal, ATF as well as Connecticut State Police. Investigators were working to narrow down the cause and it is unclear if it had anything to do with narcotics.  

East Street will be closed indefinitely while the investigation and the cleanup were underway, according to police.  

Meier said the “house suffered catastrophic damage." He added there were propane tanks outside of the house, but it is unclear if they played role in the explosion. 

Utility companies were on scene on Thursday night.

“Yes, we were on scene to assist the fire department and make sure the area was safe," Tricia Taskey Modifica, with Eversource Media Relations, said. "It's standard for us to be requested at scenes like this. “

"It's amazing, unfortunately I’ve been to a number of these scenes," Gov. Dannel Malloy said. 

Malloy visited Vernon to get a glimpse for himself after seeing coverage of the explosion.

"To think this happening literally in seconds time is amazing," Malloy said. 

Click here to see more photos from the scene.

To watch drone video sent to Eyewitness News by viewer Michael Nieves, click here.

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