Rescuers used air bags and a 50-ton jack to extract one "heavily entrapped" victim
A massive explosion took place at a New Jersey home on Friday night, leading to five people being taken by air ambulance services to nearby hospitals, authorities said.
In a statement released by the West Milford Police Department, dispatch received “multiple 911 calls” around 9 p.m. Friday reporting an explosion in the Banker Road area of Upper Greenwood Lake. Police responded, arriving at the scene and confirmed a house "heavily damaged from an explosion."
West Milford Fire Department, First Aid Squad and Atlantic ALS and others also responded.
Five people were taken to hospitals in the area, police said, while a sixth individual is said to have refused further medical treatment.
Keith Koster, a neighbor, told media on the scene, “It was a vibration. It was a shock. It felt like it was going to push my house over. I’m like three-fourths of a mile down I’m not even that close and it felt like my house was going to fall over.”
Another neighbor, Cheryl Block, told NorthJersey.com, “I thought it was my house that exploded,”
Block told the outlet there was some speculation the incident may have been due to a propane tank explosion. The home was sold last month after a foreclosure and was being renovated at the time of the incident, according to neighbors, the outlet reported.
According to a report from ABC7NY, the house was a one-story ranch that had recently been sold and was leveled by the explosion. PIX11 reported that “neighbors [said] they’ve heard the home was recently purchased by new owners who may have been doing construction on it or cleaning it out."
The Paterson Fire Department, one of the many first responder units on the scene who helped rescue the occupants, shared photos of the wreckage on its Facebook page. In the photos, which have since been removed, rescuers were shown in front of the home, which looked to be nearly flattened to the ground. Walls were ripped away showing contents of various rooms of the house crushed.
The Paterson Fire Department shared details of the delicate rescue operation on their social media.
The last person who was rescued “was heavily entrapped approximately 10 feet into the structure,” firefighters said on their Facebook page. The team tunneled through the rubble toward the victim and used "airbags, a 50-ton bottle jack and a Paratech Hydra Fusion (a type of hydraulic lift) to lift the structure off the victim" and remove the individual from the rubble.
West Milford mayor Mayor Michele Dale spoke out on Saturday morning, asking the community to pray for the victims and thanked the town’s first responders for their "unwavering dedication to our township in times of crisis," according to a report from NorthJersey.com.
"We have the very best and we are very grateful for all they do," Dale said.
Police say the explosion remains under investigation by the West Milford Fire Marshall, West Milford Detective Bureau, and the State Fire Marshal Office.
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