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Gas suspected in blast - Gazette - 07/06/2006


Gas suspected in blast - Chesterfield man remains critically hurt

Investigators examine a water heater and its tubing near the debris of Kevin Ladd's home at 502 Main Road in Chesterfield. The house was destroyed by an 8 a.m. explosion Wednesday, the cause of which is still not known.

Photo by Gordon Daniels

Used by permission.  Copyright GazetteNET.com


CHESTERFIELD - State and local investigators are still working to pinpoint the cause of a Wednesday morning blast that reduced a Chesterfield home to rubble.

But their probe appears to center on whether a supply of propane to the house, from a tank outside, was responsible for the dramatic explosion, characterized by a town fire official as 'brief, momentary, but very intense.'

Kevin A. Ladd, 48, was in the basement of his 502 Main Road house when the blast occurred at about 8 a.m. He was taken at 9:30 a.m. by helicopter to the University of Massachusetts Medical Center in Worcester, where a spokesman said he is in critical condition today.

Lt. Frank Hart, of the Massachusetts State Police and State Fire Marshal's office in Stow, said there are 'no red flags so far' that would suggest the incident was suspicious.

But he emphasized the explosion remained under investigation.

As the afternoon progressed, investigators appeared to focus on a hot water heater they removed intact from the basement where Ladd was found.

'Obviously a lot would have to do with an interview,' Hart said Wednesday night, after investigators had left the scene. 'Hopefully the victim will pull through this.'

Friends and neighbors echoed that sentiment, as they visited the site throughout the day Wednesday.

'You don't know what to say,' said Marisa Lentner, a neighbor who was awakened by the explosion. 'It's like something out of a movie.'

Steve Margargal, who lives in Worthington and is a friend of the Ladd family, said today that Kevin Ladd is in 'stable but still very serious condition.'

'He's not out of the woods yet,' said Margargal, speaking on behalf of the family.

Margargal said that Ladd's father Everett is with him at the Worcester hospital and that friends and family plan daily visits.

Route 143 by the scene of the explosion reopened to traffic shortly after 11 a.m., after volunteer firefighters and members of the Chesterfield Highway Department swept shattered glass and other debris off the road.

The Chesterfield Highway Department loaned a backhoe to investigators, clearing wreckage so they could enter the house.

Ladd has lived in the house since 1988. Washington Mutual Bank, which holds a mortgage on the property, initiated foreclosure proceedings on the property earlier this summer.

Williamsburg Fire Chief Donald Lawton, one of three Hilltown fire chiefs on the scene, said he believes it was the largest explosion in the area since a snack bar in Williamsburg blew up in the late 1950s.

Ashfield Police Chief John Svoboda said several firearms had been blown from the house and were scattered in the backyard.

The guns appeared to have been secured in a locked gun cabinet that broke open in the explosion.

One of the guns, said Svoboda, was buried four feet in the ground with only its muzzle visible. State police took custody of the firearms.

(Thursday, July 6, 2006)