Reprinted, with permission, from the Country Journal - July 13, 2006
Explosion levels home, critically injuring occupant
By Lisa Connell
Ashfield Police Chief John Svoboda at the home of Kevin Ladd of Chesterfield after a horrendous explosion that occurred on July 5. (Photo by Lisa Connell)
CHESTERFIELD – In an explosion that could be heard as far away as Ashfield and Huntington, the 502 Main Rd. (Rte. 143) home of 48-year-old Kevin Ladd was shredded into match sticks just before 8 a.m. on July 5. Chesterfield Fire Department's Media Relations man and firefighter Ed Smith, who was on hand to answer questions and keep the large numbers of media people out of the way of the emergency workers, said the call went out around 7:58 a.m. but the explosion was heard all over the hills.
Ashfield Police Chief John Svoboda, formerly Goshen's Chief and current Williamsburg Constable, said he and his seargant heard the blast while they were on duty in Ashfield, and were already preparing themselves to respond to the emergency call they knew would be coming.
Immediately after the explosion, which blew debris all over the road, neighbors and passersby rushed to the house that Ladd had lived in for the past 20 years or so. One person who was on hand was John Childs who happened to be heading to work. He and the neighbors rushed to the house and began frantically digging, using their hands, saws and eventually a chain saw, and tunneled their way through the splintered wood to the basement where Ladd, and one of his seven cats, was trapped by debris. Childs said he expected to find the worst, "I was expecting to find body parts, I couldn't believe it when I heard his voice," but while it was horrible to hear, it meant he was alive and there was hope, "We just knew we had to get him out of there."
Chesterfield Fire Chief Gilman Smith reported to the Selectboard that there were a number of local people who came to the rescue, foremost in his mind was Luther Liimatainen, who was the first one to make it to Ladd. "He went through a hole in the roof and was with the guy." as everyone tried to dig him out.
Quickly on the heels of the neighbors, emergency workers were on site in record time. Members of Highland Ambulance with Director Mike Rock were there to prepare Ladd for transport to Judd's field where he was flown by helicopter around 9:30 a.m. to the trauma unit at UMass. Medical Center in Worcester where, at press time, he remained in critical condition.
On scene, officials said Ladd, who has worked for 15 years as a mechanic at Bacons in Williamsburg, had burns and other injuries to his chest and head. Ashfield Police Chief Svoboda said, "He was in tough shape," and if it hadn't been for the quick response of the local people and emergency teams, things could have been a lot worse. "I commend the rescue people. They did a great job. In my 21 years of experience this is the worse I've seen."
Librarian Cynthia Squiers, who lives across the road from the Chesterfield General Store, not far from Ladd, said she heard the sound of the blast, "It was like a bomb blew up." adding, "I'm amazed he's still alive. It must not have been his time."
On hand were volunteer firefighters from Chesterfield, Goshen, Williamsburg, Worthington and Cummington, with police responding from Ashfield, Cummington and Chesterfield, along with Highland Ambulance and the State Police. When asked how all the departments were able to coordinate so well, besides the fact that most department members have worked with each other for years, Svoboda said it was the regular NIMS (National Incident Management System) training they all undergo. NIMS was created by the Department of Homeland Security to make sure everyone from First Responders to chiefs and even town officials are on the same page when responding to incidents such as this.
Childs said he was also impressed by how fast and how well coordinaged the rescue people were, "I can't believe how quickly all the towns were here. I was impressed by how fast they got here especially after the fourth of July," when many were not only participating in the Chesterfield events but had to keep up the coverage in their towns.
The Chesterfield Selectboard said they would like to send thank you letters to all the rescue people from all the towns who helped out. Chief Smith said a thank you letter from the Selectboard would mean a lot, "It's nice to show them you realize what they do."
Smith added that he has copies of the emergency calls that went out, "To hear them you have a lot more respect for the professionalism of the dispatchers. They did a real nice job."
As of press time, the official cause of the explosion was still under investigation, but officials and residents on scene speculated that it had something to do with propane.
(Thursday, July 13, 2006)