Explosion levels three-bedroom house in Independence

08/26/2014 1:24 PM

08/26/2014 8:08 PM

A powerful explosion felt 2 miles away leveled a three-bedroom house in Independence early Tuesday afternoon.

The residents were not home, but two dogs and three cats died, police said. Officials were investigating whether natural gas caused the blast about 12:30 p.m.

Afterward, little but debris remained where the home had stood in the 2400 block of South Vermont Avenue. Its walls had blown outward, and the roof collapsed. Furniture, some of it charred, ended up in the yard. Debris from the sunroom landed on a pickup truck. Only a chimney remained standing.

Monica Ayers, who lives three houses to the south, rushed to the site to make sure no one was trapped inside. She turned over a television, beds and insulation but did not find anyone.

Another neighbor, Lisa Emery, yelled for Ayers to get out because a strong odor of natural gas lingered in the air.

“It sounded like an explosion in my yard,” Emery said of the blast. “I had never heard anything so powerful before.”

Homeowner Jimmie E. Dorsey was at Truman Medical Center-Lakewood attending a diabetes class with his son when police called with the news. The retired General Motors worker, 67; his wife, 72; and their son, 46, had lived at the home since 1971.

“It was a miracle” that no one was home, Dorsey said. “God was with us.”

The family had eaten breakfast about 11 a.m. without noticing any sign — even a smell — of looming trouble, Dorsey said. So he found the police phone call hard to believe.

“I didn’t know if they had the right house or not,” he said.

A white cloud of smoke wafted skyward before flames appeared on what was left of the roof.

Firefighters used a ladder truck to pour water on the home’s smoldering remains.

Workers from Missouri Gas Energy shut off gas service, said Sgt. Darrell Schmidli of the Independence Police Department.

The explosion rocked the neighborhood, prompting neighbors to rush outside to see what caused it. One feared something large had fallen on his home. Then he saw the destruction up the block at the Dorsey home.

“It was almost like a bomb went off inside,” neighbor Danny Gunter said.

The blast also shook nearby businesses.

“We heard it and we felt something like a little earthquake, and the back of the building shook,” said Johanny Hiciana, owner of Key 2 Beauty salon at South Vermont and 23th Street, about a block from the explosion.

The Star’s Mará Rose Williams and Donna McGuire contributed to this report.

To reach Glenn E. Rice, call 816-234-4341 or send email to grice@kcstar.com.

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