CHESTERFIELD - A blast tore through a Chesterfield home at 8 a.m. today, trapping the resident in the basement, as neighbors worked frantically to help stop him from bleeding to death.
Kevin Ladd, of 502 Main Road, was pulled from the wreckage of his one-story house roughly an hour after an explosion blew the structure apart, sending part of its roof the distance of a football field.
The cause of the blast remained uncertain this morning. People reported hearing the explosion as far away as Williamsburg and Ashfield.
'It was a brief, momentary, but very intense blast,' said Edmund Smith, deputy chief of the Chesterfield Fire Department.
Ladd, 48, was flown out of Chesterfield by helicopter at 9:30 a.m. for treatment. His condition could not be determined late this morning. It was not known where Ladd was to be treated. He received emergency care at Judd Field on Bryant Street, which was used for the airlift.
Ladd was conscious when pulled from the house, where he lived alone. Route 143 was closed to traffic through the morning.
Gilman Smith, Chesterfield's fire chief, declined to speculate about the cause of the explosion. A state fire marshal was on the way to the scene, where debris was smoking around 9 a.m. today. There were no flames visible.
A propane tank could be seen on the east side of the house, away from the area most affected by the blast. Two employees of George Propane came to the site, but declined to comment.
Neighbors interviewed at the scene today said Ladd appeared to have been in his basement when the blast occurred. Rescuers spent one hour digging through the wreckage to get to him. Neighbors were joined by members of seven Hilltown fire departments in the effort.
Pieces of the house, including roofing materials, insulation and items of furniture, lay scattered about the yard and across Main Road, also known as Route 143.
A section of roof was seen lying 100 yards from the house. A twisted door lay about 50 yards from the house remains. Debris, including rugs, insulation, clothing and wood, hung from branches nearby. Part of a bureau was visible through the front of the house.
A garage remained standing, but the west side of the dwelling, where Ladd has lived for an estimated 20 years, was destroyed.
Kevin McQuaid of Chesterfield was one of the first to try to enter the house to rescue Ladd. He said he crawled in and started shouting for Ladd. Ladd called back to him.
McQuaid got within feet of the injured man and found him sitting up in the basement. He took off his shirt and threw it to Ladd to use as a tourniquet to stanch the flow of blood.
'I told him, 'Hang in there, we got people coming,' ' McQuaid said.
Rescue workers used saws to cut a 15-foot path through debris and collapsed beams to reach Ladd, pulling out wreckage as they went. They found him in a roughly six- by eight-foot open space in the basement.
'I think the thing that impressed me most was the neighbors. They were here with power tools and everything,' said Smith, the Chesterfield deputy chief.
John Childs of Chesterfield also entered the house, as rescuers began to arrive. 'I knew we had to get him out of there. Just to hear him speaking was refreshing,' he said of Ladd. 'He's a tough bird, this guy.'
Ann Pickrell, a neighbor, said she was drying her hair at 8 a.m. when she heard a blast that 'sounded like a bomb went off.'
She ran out to investigate. 'When I saw it, I said it doesn't look good.'
Ladd typically leaves at 8:10 a.m. for work at Bacon's in Williamsburg, where he has been employed for 15 years as a mechanic. 'You can set your clock by him,' Pickrell said.