WHITESBORO, N.Y. (WKTV) - An elderly woman is dead after the house she was living in exploded Saturday night on Ablett Avenue in the Village of Whitesboro. An investigation is now underway to see if a suspected gas smell in the area was involved.
The Whitesboro Fire Department says firefighters responded to reports of a house explosion on Ablett Avenue near Sauquoit Street round 8:20 p.m.
When they arrived on the scene, the structure had been leveled. Debris from the explosion was thrown as far as 110 feet, authorities said, adding that the front door of the home that was thrown across the street into another house.
The fire was brought under control around 9:15 p.m.
Crews searched through the rubble for at least two hours, before finding the body around 11:10 p.m. The elderly woman's identity has not been released as of Sunday afternoon.
Dozens of neighbors came out to watch as fire crews battled the flames and dug through the rubble. Residents from nearly five miles away said that they felt their houses shake. One neighbor said that he had never heard a sound like that in his life.
There is still no official cause being released but neighbors in the area say "natural gas" could be smelled as early as 4:00 p.m. Unconfirmed reports indicate that National Grid responded to these early hints of gas, but that the area was deemed safe. National Grid was also on the scene following the explosion.
Houses in the neighborhood, including the one that exploded, have furnace company signs in their front yard, indicating work had been recently done in the homes. Whitesboro Assistant Fire Chief Duane Evans said they believe a new furnace may have been installed in recent weeks. He notes that this may be a coincidence but the fire investigators will look into that possibility.
Some neighbors said that work had indeed been done in these homes because of the severe flooding that took place last month.
As mentioned, the explosion was so powerful that neighboring homes were also damaged. The American Red Cross says they responded to the scene Saturday night to provide assistance to one of families living a nearby home.
Crews will spend the overnight hours cleaning up the area and beginning the investigation.
Stay with NEWSChannel 2 and WKTV.com as more information becomes available.