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Couple badly hurt as gas blast levels house

Faultily installed dryer blamed

- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 4, 2011

A gas explosion that rattled the windows of nearby houses flattened a Rockville home early Wednesday and hurled its occupants from their beds into their backyard.

The man and woman who lived in the house in the 11200 block of Ashley Drive survived the blast but were in serious condition at a local burn center Wednesday, a Montgomery County Fire and Rescue spokesman said.

Assistant Chief Scott Graham said the explosion was caused by an improperly installed natural gas dryer that was leaking gas into the home until the explosion was sparked at about 3 a.m.

Neighbors said it wasn't so much the sound of the blast that jolted them awake as much as the force, which could be felt down the block.

One of the first people on the scene was neighbor Ned Mihaylov. He said the loud "ka-boom" sounded like a special effect from a Hollywood action movie.

The 26-year-old scrambled through the burning remnants of the home and found the woman who lived in the house splayed in the backyard, still wearing a sleeping shirt and pajamas.

"She looked hurt. I knew that I shouldn't touch injured people," said Mr. Mihaylov, who stayed with the woman until rescuers arrived.

"I did what anyone else would do," he said. "I hope she's OK."

Neighbors said the couple moved just days ago into the rental home, which had been vacant for several months.

By afternoon, the only noise coming from the quiet street was the low growl of a backhoe collecting slabs of splintered wood. Roof tiles hung limply from treetops. Glass and metal debris from the destroyed home were strewn on the roofs of neighboring rambler-style brick houses, and all that remained was a stack of wood shards resembling a matchstick pile and household items burned beyond recognition.

Neighbor Lise Valenta said the loud explosion shook her awake. She initially thought a large tree had fallen onto her roof. She found her windows blown in and debris in the street and saw that the house that had stood across from her for more than 30 years was gone.

"Parts of their roof were on top of our roof," Ms. Valenta said.

Ms. Valenta said the occupants "seemed like lovely people," though she'd only met the man and had seen him cut the grass on Tuesday from her home directly across the street.

Chief Graham estimated the damage to the home and neighboring houses at $750,000.

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