House explodes in Mitchell, man seriously injuredShelli Porras wiped the tears from her face Tuesday as she stared at the ruins of an exploded house that she said was home to her relative and friend, Jose Aguirre. “I just feel so bad for him,” Porras said of Aguirre, who at that moment was being flown to Minneapolis for treatment of second- and third-degree burns and a partially collapsed lung.
By: Austin Kaus, The Daily Republic
Shelli Porras wiped the tears from her face Tuesday as she stared at the ruins of an exploded house that she said was home to her relative and friend, Jose Aguirre.
“I just feel so bad for him,” Porras said of Aguirre, who at that moment was being flown to Minneapolis for treatment of second- and third-degree burns and a partially collapsed lung.
Authorities received a call of an exploded house in the 700 block of East Hanson Avenue at 4:17 p.m. Tuesday. They arrived to find Aguirre’s home at 718 E. Hanson destroyed without a hint of fire or smoke. The house was not completely flattened, but a majority of it had collapsed in on itself.
Tom Glanzer, spokesman for NorthWestern Energy, which supplies natural gas to the home, said it’s believed the explosion came after Aguirre lit his stove. The spark likely ignited natural gas that had built up in the home, Glanzer said.
Authorities said the explosion lifted the home off its foundation and moved it 26 inches.
The scene was reminiscent of March 8, 2007, when a house at 1612 Bridle Drive in Mitchell exploded at approximately 11:30 a.m., destroying the house and damaging two neighboring homes beyond repair while, amazingly, injuring no one.
“I would say it’s a little bit too familiar to some folks in Mitchell,” Glanzer said.
Seven months after the Bridle Drive explosion, Darrick Van Dyke received burns to roughly 80 percent of his body when his Wessington Springs home exploded. That incident was linked to propane.
Glanzer said NorthWestern Energy is investigating Tuesday’s explosion, although he noted the investigation will end when it reaches the house’s meter. Anything beyond that is the responsibility of the home’s owner, Glanzer said.
Porras said Aguirre has been a renter in the house for almost four years. A record retrieved Tuesday from the Davison County Treasurer’s website said the house is owned by Morgan Properties.
After the explosion, NorthWestern Energy officials pinched the gas line to the home. By Tuesday evening, the line had been capped.
Glanzer said he considers the incident a cautionary tale about alerting authorities to a possible gas leak.
When asked if NorthWestern Energy customers are at risk of a similar incident, Glanzer repeated the warning.
“I hate to use the word ‘at risk,’ but if it causes people to be a little more aware and pay attention to the smell of natural gas, let’s call it ‘at risk,’ ” Glanzer said. “Call it whatever you want, but we want people to be safe. When they smell gas, they should call Northwestern Energy or 911.”
Angela Thompson was with her three children across the street at 717 E. Hanson Ave. when she heard and felt Aguirre’s home explode.
“It felt like our house was the one blowing up,” she said.
Thompson said she saw Aguirre exit the home, dazed.
“He said it was coming from the stove,” Thompson said.
The explosion led police to close and evacuate the blocks surrounding the home. Once the streets were re-opened, news crews and bystanders flocked to stare at the pile of lumber and debris that once was Aguirre’s home.
Shelli Porras’ husband, Lou, comforted his wife and looked at the wreckage with amazement. Shelli said she is related to Aguirre by marriage.
“The house lifted up, moved 26 inches, settled down and he was able to walk outside,” Lou Porras said. “I’m just glad he was able to walk out on his own.”