Foul play suspected in Bolindale house explosion
It was a scene out of a movie for people living in Bolindale, as an abandoned home mysteriously exploded Thursday afternoon.
This all happened around 2 p.m. Thursday when fortunately no one was hurt.
Crews worked into the evening hours, cleaning up what's left of a home. The Howland Fire Chief believes it was something or someone who caused a blast inside the dilapidated home along Niles Road.
"We're moving into an investigative stage at this point," said Chief Pantalone to 21 News during the cleanup.
"The house shook and I jumped up off the couch and I grabbed the telephone immediately," said Jo Anne Stewart of Bolindale. "And then I ran out the front door and as soon as I got to the end of the driveway, I saw pieces of the house all over the road and all over the place. I knew something was bad."
Neighbors told 21 News the home has been abandoned for more than 4 years after its former owner passed away. The explosion caused damage to an adjacent abandoned building that was once a commercial property and surrounding homes and businesses.
"The house was gone. Just literally gone. It was such a huge boom that just rattled the whole place," explained John Gilmore, Co-Owner of Gilmore's Greenhouse. "The wall of the home is 30 feet away from where it used to be. The window that was on the upstairs of the house blew about 100 feet and hit our one greenhouse. So, it was a big explosion."
"It was extremely loud and scary," added Jamie Airhart, Co-Owner of Gilmore's Greenhouse. "It shook you because it was so loud. People working outside of our greenhouse saw smoke and debris flying towards our greenhouse."
Employees at Gilmore Greenhouse tell 21 News they felt their entire business shake as a result of the explosion. Employees told our station there was a lot of smoke in the area and staff is continuing to check the roof for damages.
A homeowner who lives directly across the street from the blast is a U.S. Army veteran. He told 21 News the sound and what he felt during this explosion was comparable to his time in the service.
"We've worked with our police department to see if there's anything that's been odd lately or something," Chief Pantalone added. "So, we're looking at all avenues. We've even pulled some cameras from neighboring communities."
Chief Pantalone confirmed it was a gas leak that caused the boom, stating that he can't rule out the possibility of burglary related to the theft of installed utility services or appliances. All utilities were still in the home after the explosion.
He told 21 News they received a tip about a suspicious vehicle seen near the scene shortly after the explosion.
"It's something that we see regularly with houses that are vacant for a long period," Pantalone said. "There's a reason why there's a gas leak and that's what we're trying to hone in on. What was the cause of that gas leak? Was it a hot water tank? Was it a gas leak? Was it a gas meter? We're now going through a methodical process of elimination."
"Our gas company was just out two weeks ago inspecting our house," said Stewart, who's lived in a nearby home for almost 40 years. "So I feel good about that."
Bazetta and Weathersfield fire crews along with the Trumbull County EMA assisted Howland through the aftermath. Dominion Energy also continues pressure testing in the area.