A woman died and six others were injured when a two-story house in Floral Park exploded Friday afternoon, firefighters said.
Shortly before 4:50 p.m., the house at 80-50 260th St. blew up, sending a huge column of smoke billowing into the sky, Fire Department officials said. Con Ed crews were investigating reports by neighbors of a gas smell in the vicinity when the explosion occurred, according to the FDNY.
"One house was totally on fire and another two caught on fire," said Anupma Singh, who lives a few blocks away and saw the explosion.
The NYPD said a 40-year-old woman was found dead inside the house but did not release her name Friday night.
FDNY Chief of Operations Patrick McNally said a married couple and their three boys lived in the house and all but the mother were accounted for as of Friday night.
"It would be normal for her to be in home at the time," McNally said of the mother.
The fire chief said the boys, aged 10, 8 and 7, were at school while the father was at work during the time of the explosion.
Two people injured on the scene were taken to North Shore-Long Island Jewish Hospital for treatment, including a 80-year-old woman and a Con Ed worker who was looking into the gas problem, firefighters said. Four firefighters suffered minor injuries fighting the blaze, according to the FDNY.
Vita and Stanley Barth, who lived next door to the blast, said they called Con Ed Friday afternoon after their lights began flickering on and off and they smelled gas.
Con Ed spokesman Chris Olert said the utility received the report of a gas leak on the block at 3:35 p.m.
“We were there within a half hour checking the neighborhood,” he said. “Apparently within a few minutes of that, the explosion occurred.”
The fire reached three alarms and ultimately engulfed three additional homes, according to the FDNY.
“We heard an explosion,” Singh, the neighbor, said. “It was really scary. Everything was shaking.”
Vita Barth said the blast sent debris flying through her house, which was destroyed along with another house adjacent to 80-50 260th St., according to the FDNY.
“It flattened the [other] house completely,” she said. Her own house, where she has lived for 51 years, was completely consumed by flames, she said, adding that she, her husband and the Con Ed inspector narrowly escaped the fire.
Stanley Barth said his wife is an artist and they kept a number of her paintings and quilts in the house.
“Knowing all the wonderful things we had in it are gone, it’s horrible,” he said, adding that the now-homeless couple would have to start the sabbath by moving in with their son.
Con Ed said it is working with the FDNY to investigate the cause of the explosion. Con Ed Queens section manager Bill Horgan said the street has not had a complaint since 2007.
The company shut down gas and power to the block all night as it removed debris from the scene.
Reach reporters Ivan Pereira and Jeremy Walsh by e-mail at news@times
©2009 Community News Group
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