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National Fuel: initial testing shows nothing unusual after deadly house explosion in Lackawanna

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Posted at 8:12 AM, Jul 20, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-21 11:40:59-04

LACKAWANNA, N.Y. (WKBW) — Emergency crews in Lackawanna responded to the scene of a house explosion on Bedford Avenue Tuesday.

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Previous photo of the neighborhood on the left via Google Earth. Photo of the scene on the right via Jessica Manuszewski.

Lackawanna fire officials say crews responded to 91 Bedford Avenue around 7:20 a.m. for the report of a house explosion. Upon arrival, firefighters found the home was destroyed and large debris field with fire burning from the home’s foundation. Officials say 92-year-old Irene Sanok was pronounced dead at the scene by the Erie County Medical Examiner’s Office. It is not believed any other people were inside the home and and no other injuries have been reported at this time.

Seven other homes were damaged in the area and Lackawanna Code Enforcement Officers are evaluating.

"I don't even have words. It's overwhelming," said Kayleigh, who lives behind the Sanok home.

Kayleigh says she has been finding several personal items in her backyard from the explosion like a wedding album. She has given those items to the Sanok family.

"I think that really makes it real. You're seeing this person's life you're seeing these pictures, and overall it seems like a total loss so anything we can find we are trying to salvage."

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Photo of house explosion taken by Bedford Avenue neighbor.

The cause of the explosion is under investigation by the City of Lackawanna Fire and Police Departments, the Erie County Sheriffs Office and National Fuel. It is expected to take several days.

In an update Wednesday National Fuel said initial testing has shown nothing unusual or any evidence of a system malfunction or leaking natural gas.

National Fuel crews were onsite at the house explosion, located at 91 Bedford Avenue in Lackawanna, throughout the day yesterday assisting with the investigation into this incident. Testing of the main line and service line on Bedford Avenue as well as soil and atmospheric evaluation have shown nothing unusual or any evidence of system malfunction or leaking natural gas. This testing was done under the observation of the New York State Department of Public Service. National Fuel is also cooperating with Lackawanna Fire and Police representatives and fire investigators from the Erie County Sheriff’s Office.

National Fuel would like to express its condolences to the relatives of Irene Sanok. Our thoughts and prayers are with them at this time of tremendous loss.

Neighbor Michael Salamone is a volunteer firefighter for Reserve Hose but was not part of the official response, he spoke to 7 Eyewitness News about what he saw.

"A war zone, I've never been in a war zone, but it looked like a war zone, debris all over, we had debris in our backyards, like other side of the house, there's debris stuck in windshields," said Salamone.

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Photo of the house explosion taken by a Bedford Avenue neighbor.

According to Salamone he opened his blinds and that's when the flash/explosion went, he said it blinded him for a few minutes. He then saw a huge fireball and flames in the middle where the basement would be.

"This is sad, it's going to hit later because we're a tight knit community," said Salamone.