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'I've never seen anything blow like this'

April 22, 1999|By BRENDAN KIRBY

ROHRERSVILLE - Moments after hearing the explosion, several neighbors rushed into the burning ruins of a house on Kaetzel Road to rescue a couple who were trapped inside.

"I didn't even think," said Reed Road resident Robert Sterling, who was one of the first people to reach the house at 2231 Kaetzel Road.

Sterling said he was sitting on his porch when he heard the blast.

"I'd never heard such an explosion in my life. It almost reminded me of dynamite," he said.

Sterling said a young boy who had gotten out of the house told him his grandparents were still inside. He said he ran around to the back of the house and saw a man trapped underneath the wreckage.

Sterling and others darted past flames not more than 20 feet away, pulled off the debris and dragged the man to safety.

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Sterling said the man, who was later identified as George Carey, had badly injured ankles, and other neighbors said he complained of chest pains.

Joseph Mills, 22, said he was listening to music in his car outside his home up the road when the blast hit.

"This big explosion shook the whole mountain," he said. "The force was so bad it actually pulled my car off the ground about a foot."

Mills said he saw "nothing but fire" as he ran toward the house. He said the woman, identified as Jane Carey, was screaming as he pulled her out of the home.

"She was the first person I saw and I just grabbed her," he said.

"She was screaming, and I guess they were both in shock," he said.

Neighbor Slim Longerbeam said he was sitting on his porch when he saw the house across the street rise into the air and then collapse onto itself.

"It was shooting flames, 35, 40 feet in the air," he said.

Longerbeam, 52, ran to the home and help the other rescuers. He said the experience took him back to his days as a volunteer firefighter in Brunswick, Md., more than a decade ago.

But he added that nothing could compare with this.

"We had fires and I've seen people rescued out of buildings. But I've never seen anything blow like this before," he said.

related story:

-- Blast injures at least 3, levels house

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