Sep 18, 2013
08:10 AM
Connecticut Today

Stamford House Explosion: Connecticut Has History of Propane-Related Blasts, Some Deadly

Stamford House Explosion: Connecticut Has History of Propane-Related Blasts, Some Deadly

Litchfield County Times file photo

Only the chimney remained when an explosion linked to a propane gas leak destroyed a house in New Milford in August, 2012.

The explosion that destroyed a house and rocked rural North Stamford Tuesday afternoon has parallels to a deadly house explosion just over a year ago in a rural part of New Milford, and is among a number of propane-related explosions in Connecticut in the past year, including one in Shelton last September that left three men with significant burns and injuries, and a more minor incident in August 2012 that shook and damaged the town hall in Washington, Conn.

Below, a photo of the scene in North Stamford, north of the Merritt Parkway, taken by Colin Maclennan of Stamford, who posted it on Twitter.

A Stamford Advocate story said Tuesday's explosion was felt by residents as far as two miles away from the scene, and that the owner of the leveled house, at 305 Webbs Hill Rd., was outside near a pool house when the mid-afternoon explosion happened. Officials have indicated that the explosion may have been caused by "a buildup of fumes in the home's basement from an underground 500-gallon propane tank buried in the backyard," the story says, quoting Stamford Police Chief Jon Fontneau as saying, "It was like a scene out of hell."

That same description applied to the scene of a deadly house explosion in New Milford on Aug. 29, 2012. The explosion occurred at approximately 6:42 p.m. at the home of John and Alice Wilkinson at 109 Sunny Valley Road, and resulted in the death of Anthony J. Fratino III, 48, a licensed union plumber. Mr. Wilkinson and Mr. Fratino’s son Nicholas, 8, were seriously injured.

An investigation whose results were released roughly a year after the blast concluded that it was due to a liquid propane gas leak in the basement of the house, and the incident was ruled an accident, according to a Litchfield County Times story.

Mr. Wilkinson and Mr. Fratino reportedly were looking into why there was an odor of gas in the house at the time of the explosion, the story explained. After smelling gas, Mr. Wilkinson had sent his two young sons to a neighbor’s house. His wife, who was pregnant, was also not home at the time. Community members immediately established a fund to help the family.

Meanwhile, weeks before that deadly explosion, another blast linked to propane had occurred at Bryan Memorial Town Hall in Washington.

The blast happened in the basement boiler room at town hall after propane gas had seeped into the room and then ignited, The Litchfield County Times reported. The gas buildup occurred during late night cleanup after a wedding reception, when a catering company employee driving a vehicle across the grass and up close to the building ran over an underground propane tank and released a valve.

No one was injured but the blast caused some structural damage and blew out windows in the first-floor banquet room where the wedding reception had been held.

Stamford House Explosion: Connecticut Has History of Propane-Related Blasts, Some Deadly

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