Caretaker Burned As Gas Leak Causes Explosion and Fire
By Jeanne Sager
WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS April 27, 2007 It was supposed to be smooth sailing from here for the Torres family.
Tuesday morning, they signed the papers to sell their house in South Fallsburg.
They already had everything lined up to move into a modular home in Mountain View Meadows on Route 52 outside White Sulphur Springs that afternoon.
The Torreses were on their way to their rental when things exploded literally.
The modular home park’s caretaker, a man identified only as Paul, was hooking up their gas oven while his helper, the guy who laid down the new carpet, looked on.
According to White Sulphur Fire Chief Tim Fink, there must have been a leak in the gas line.
The gas ignited and exploded.
Every window in the house blew out, spraying shards of glass across the yard.
The kitchen went up in flames.
Mary Luz Torres had just gotten a glass of juice from inside the house.
She was sitting with neighbor Iris Cruz in canvas chairs right outside the kitchen window, playing with her brother Hector’s black Lab.
“We heard a funny noise,” Mary Luz said. “At first I didn’t take it seriously, but I realized someone was saying ‘Help.’”
She ran around the corner of the house, and from the porch she could see Paul his body covered in flames.
“This man was standing in the kitchen, and this man is burning,” she said, her voice raising as she related the horrific details.
Mary Luz struggled to get inside as the man’s skin dripped off, she said.
“All his skin… his hand… it was coming down,” she said, trying to find the words.
Her sister-in-law, Carol, who was set to move in that day, stopped her. “I can’t … I don’t… want to hear anymore,” she said.
“It’s a sad situation,” her husband, Hector, said. “Material things, you can take care of, you can buy more, but people… ”
He shook his head as a he trailed off.
“Paul’s a good guy,” Hector continued. “He was trying to help us out.
“Material things, I could care less,” he repeated. “But my sister… I can’t imagine if she’d been in there.”
“Thank God my kids weren’t in there,” Carol interrupted, shuddering.
The 14-year-old and 16-year-old boys could easily have been left at the housing complex to take care of the family dog, she said, but they were nowhere near the explosion.
The family said half of their belongings were still in storage they were only planning to rent the modular while they explored their options.
For now, they’ve been moved to a home across the street from the scene of the disaster.
The two men injured in the explosion were taken out by Town of Liberty Volunteer Ambulance Corps.
A landing zone set up just off Route 52 in a field across from Mountain View Meadows allowed the LifeNet helicopter (now stationed at Catskill Regional Medical Center in Harris) to immediately airlift one to Westchester Medical Center in Valhalla for treatment of the severe burns.
The second was taken straight to CRMC.
Fink said the fire department extinguished a small blaze in the floor of the home, leaving only minor damage to the kitchen.
New York State Police were also on the scene to assist with traffic control on Route 52.
Trooper Robert Saracelli said the incident was not criminal in nature, so no investigation was expected.
Town of Liberty code enforcement stopped by to inspect the building, and the Swan Lake Fire Department stood by in White Sulphur Springs.