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4 injured in Fla. house explosion

Two children are among the injured in blast that damaged West Park homes


A residence in the 5200 block of SW 20th Street in West Park exploded at about 12:34 a.m. Tuesday, injuring four people, authorities said. (Joe Cavaretta/Sun Sentinel)

By Robin Webb, Joe Cavaretta, Rafael Olmeda, Angie DiMichele
South Florida Sun-Sentinel

WEST PARK, Fla. — An explosion destroyed a home early Tuesday, injuring its occupants, two adults and two children, and jarring a neighborhood that woke to a scene of chaos and confusion.

The overnight blast at the house in the 5200 block of Southwest 20th Street left the residence in rubble and damaged nearby homes and vehicles. Witnesses said the explosion could be heard more than a mile away.

“We don’t know the source of the explosion, just some type of gas,” Broward Sheriff Fire Rescue Battalion Chief Michael Kane said at a morning briefing.

He said that Fire Rescue and law enforcement personnel arrived about 12:30 a.m. and “located the home with extensive damage. The home was completely destroyed; it appeared to be some type of gas,” he said.

Khadijah Orr, 24, was asleep when the explosion took place next door, and somehow, she said, she did not hear it. Her boyfriend woke her and told her to race out to safety. His house, immediately east of the explosion site, was heavily damaged.

“It’s halfway gone,” said Orr, who took off from the scene with her 5-year-old daughter. “Once I heard it was gas, I was out of there.”

Her phone, and her boyfriend’s, were left behind in his damaged house. As of mid-Tuesday morning, she had not reunited with her boyfriend.

Neighbors said the explosion rattled their doors and broke some windows. One described the air as thick with the smell of smoke and still-falling debris minutes after the deafening explosion.

Over a mile away, on the east side of Interstate 95, Curtis Orr said he heard the explosion and thought it was a full stick of dynamite, much louder than even the loudest blasts heard in the neighborhood every year on the Fourth of July. “I thought someone was starting their New Year’s celebration early,” he said. Hours later, he made contact with Khadijah Orr, his daughter, and learned of her close call.

“I’m just happy to be alive,” she said.

First responders immediately searched for victims at the house and in adjoining homes, the Broward Sheriff’s Office said. The four people found in the house were taken to Memorial Regional Hospital in Hollywood, Kane said, and three of them have since been transported to Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami.

“Their conditions range anywhere from significant injury to life-threatening injuries,” Kane said.

Ervin Rogers, who lives across from the home, was awakened by a “big, big blast.”

“It was like a bomb, never heard anything like it in my life. Woke me right up,” he said. “A lady and child were brought on a stretcher.”

Rogers said the home was being renovated. Neighbors said the residents of the destroyed home had lived there only a few months and had done nothing to draw attention to themselves.

The cause of the explosion is under investigation by the State Fire Marshal, and Southwest 20th Street and 57th Avenue are closed to vehicle and pedestrian traffic until the investigation is complete. The area is expected to be closed through Wednesday.

A few nearby homes have been determined uninhabitable by a structural engineer, Kane said.

Kane said residents in the area had begun to arrive back at their homes Monday afternoon after the explosion forced them to evacuated.

The Red Cross will be assisting anyone who is displaced by the blast. The department has sent an engine company out to assess who needs Red Cross assistance, Kane said.

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