Family members of Vernon house explosion victims speak out - WFSB 3 Connecticut

Family members of Vernon house explosion victims speak out

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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)

Investigators are still trying to figure out what sparked a propane gas leak that caused a home to explode in Vernon.

The leak was found in a line that connected to a dryer in the basement at the home on East Street.

"I received a phone call that there had been accident on East Street and I knew the area where my father lived," Nicole's brother Matthew Kerstetter said. 

Matthew Kerstetter said she was shocked to learn his family's home was leveled by an explosion. 

"At that point, we didn't know I had no idea who was OK," Matthew Kerstetter said. "I read it on Facebook just an update coming in saying house explosion on 2 East Street and that's the house right next door, so I called him to check on the family next door and we couldn't get a hold of anybody." 

Seven people were inside the home when the explosion and collapse happened. Six of them were taken to the hospital, and they are all expected to survive.

As of Monday afternoon, a 7-year-old boy and a 15 year-old girl were still at Connecticut Children's Medical Center. Police said both children remained in good condition. 

As of Monday evening, the 23-year-old man, who had been at Hartford Hospital, was discharged. Police said there is no more information on 35-year-old Nicole Kerstetter, who was hospitalized after the incident.  

Kerstetter's daughter had a broken back, but was out of the intensive care unit. 

"They are doing the best they can," Matthew Kerstetter said. "They are getting better." 

Click here to see more photos from the scene.

In the wake of the explosion and collapse, there has been an outpouring of support from friends and neighbors who want to help.

Churches, clothing banks, schools and restaurants have been inquiring about what they can do to help.

GoFundMe fundraising webpage has been set up for Nicole Kerstetter and her family. People immediately contributed money and posted good wishes.

 "I just thank God for all the professionals that was there that saved the lives of my family," Matthew Kerstetter said. 

The family said they were overwhelmed by the outpouring of support during this difficult time.  

"I spoke to the EMT, who had rescued him, and he told me I'm a father and it really got me he even gave me his card and said I want to know how he's doing," Matthew Kerstetter said. "Words really can't describe how much the Vernon Rockville community has helped us from the fundraisers to lemonade stands to ice tea stands the entire community we are so grateful."

To donate, click here

The Clothing Bank is also accepting the items on the family's behalf.

The clothing bank is located on Prospect Street in Vernon and its phone number is 860-870-0500.

The items needed for the family include:

  • MEN'S 38/32 PANTS
  • MEN'S 36/32 PANTS

Eyewitness News wanted to know more about the history of this home and found out it was purchased in 1984 by Steven Kerstetter who we ran into at the house today. He declined an interview.

According to town records, it shows the home was fueled by oil heat. Town officials told Eyewitness News to add propane lines. A permit would need to be taken out.

Town officials have no records of any permit.

Steven Kerstetter told Eyewitness News he works for a gas company. The propane line is 10 years old and was installed by him along with the gas company.

Experts said lines should last for more than 50 years.

While Eyewitness News was digging for information, the station discovered the town has had previous problems with Steven Kerstetter and this property.

Steven Kerstetter was cited for zoning violations between the early 90’s and 2008. They ranged from an expired pool permit, having seven inoperable cars on the property and having trash, and clutter on the property. 

"Propane can fill up a foundation and lay dormant down there for years and any indication could start a fire or explosion," Jamie Campbell with Campbell Cooling. 

Eyewitness News wanted to find out if propane had a higher level danger when it comes to heating. While propane is safe and many people use it as a fuel source Campbell said it's important to get it serviced and installed by a professional. 

"If your want professional results, hire a professional. This isn't nothing to mess around with,"Campbell said. 

On Monday, officials from the Propane Gas Association of New England released some safety tips, saying propane is a safe fuel when handled properly, and that it is important to leave the technical work to professionals.

"Consumers should never attempt to service or repair any propane leaks, or otherwise service propane equipment in their homes or vacation properties," officials said.

They added that propane has a "rotten egg" smell so customers are made aware of leaking gas before an incident happens.

"If you  smell gas, don’t take any chances – extinguish all smoking materials and other open flames, leave the area immediately, shut off the propane tank serving the home, and call both your propane supplier and 911 from a neighbor’s home or other building away from the gas leak. Remain away from the building until help arrives," officials said.

The press release continued to say that an improperly connected tank or appliance can cause a gas leak, and customers shouldn't skip regular equipment inspections and tune ups.

"Even with normal safe use, propane equipment should be inspected regularly to ensure it is truly operating safely. Licensed propane service technicians have the training to install, inspect, service, maintain, and repair your propane system and appliances. Many homeowners schedule this service in the spring and summer seasons," the press release said.

To learn more about propane safety, click here.

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