House explosion in Massillon kills elderly man

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MASSILLON, Ohio -- An elderly man is dead after a house explodes, destroying it and damaging the homes of two neighbors. Investigators are trying to figure out what happened.
A massive amount of flames erupted minutes after the home on Standish Street, NW in Massillon exploded just before 11:00 a.m. Wednesday.

"I was resting in the back bedroom watching TV and all of a sudden I heard a loud boom, it scared me, but I thought a branch had fell on the roof because we had some high winds through the evening," said neighbor Briana McKnight.

But when McKnight looked out of her front window she saw the house across the street engulfed in flames. She knew an elderly man lived there alone so she called 911.

"It had to only been one minute that I heard the boom to seeing the flames and I panicked and I thought there's nothing I can do, I really felt helpless though," she said.

When Massillon firefighters arrived, they say the home had been partially blown from its foundation. After they put out the fire, they found the body of an elderly man inside.

"He was really, really a nice gentleman," said neighbor John Starrett.

The Emergency Response Team from Dominion Gas arrived on scene as well, trying to determine if a gas problem played any role in the explosion.

"They've done testing under our supervision and we determined there was no leak, either from the street level to the building, it came from within the building," said Massillon fire chief Tom Burgasser.

"I got a call on my phone down at work and they said 'hey, can you come home, the side of your house is melting'...I'm like what!?" Starrett said.

At one point, the flames were so intense they damaged homes on both sides of the burning home. Firefighters kicked in John Starrett's door to rescue his dog, Joey. Fortunately, damage to his home was relatively minor.

"Not too much on the inside, other than smoke and they had to board up the three windows here on the side, but hey, I still have a house," said Starrett.

Fire investigators have not released the victim's name.