WILSON, N.Y. (WIVB) - People in the small Town of Wilson were literally shaken out of their sleep Tuesday morning. In just a split second, a huge explosion leveled a house, rattling the ground as far away as Lockport.
The home on Chestnut Road belonged to the Johnson family, Jody and Judith and their five children. Sixteen-year-old Hannah and 10-year-old Sam had stayed with family friends Monday night and were not home.
But their sister, 14-year-old Sarah, was home and did not make it out alive. She would have started her freshman year at Wilson Central High School this fall. Sarah's older sister Katie, who just graduated last month, survived but remains in critical condition at ECMC with severe burns. Jody, Judith and their son Nathan are listed in fair condition at the hospital.
|>> Full Coverage: See photos of the explosion, the victims, and the vigil. Listen to audio of crews learning of the devastation. Read stories about the community coming together for the Johnson family. And find out how you can help.|
The house the family was literally blown out of was just built ten years ago. All that remains of it is chunks of wood, insulation, and the family's belongings, strewn all over the countryside.
Words and pictures aren't enough. When you survey the scene with your own eyes - it is unbelievable that anyone could have survived the explosion that ripped through the home around 6 a.m.
Matthew Henderson awoke to the enormous sound, which blew out a window on his home. He looked out and saw his neighbor's home, flattened.
"The force of the percussion of the shockwave that had come across hit the propane tank and caused it to ring like a bell, outside of our house," Henderson recounted.
After the explosion, Jody Johnson was left sitting in the driveway, his head in his hands. His wife, Judy, sat in the grass, calling out her daughter Sarah's name.
Niagara County Undersheriff Michael Filicetti said, "It appears that they were, by the force of the explosion, thrown from the residence."
In the area, residents use propane tanks to heat their homes, and that is something investigators are focusing in on.
"We were informed that there was a propane smell in the residence yesterday. So that's something definitely they're going to look at," Filicetti said.
The explosion was so strong, one person who was drawn to the scene said, "I saw the windows shake at my work, probably about five miles away from here."
Bob Lynch, who lives in the area, had to come see what remained of the two-story home.
"We all got problems, but when you see something like this, it makes it your problems feel about that big," Lynch said.
Investigators will return to the scene on Chestnut Road on Wednesday as they continue to sift through the rubble, seeking a cause of the incredible devastation.
At least four fire companies responded to a large house fire in Blasdell.
Buffalo Police have arrested 26-year-old Nicholas Finnegan of South Buffalo and charged him with pushing Russ Ross to his death.
The Niagara County Sheriff's is on the scene of a suspected meth lab in Cambria.
Police say there were 32 burglaries, 20 in Albion, five in Medina, four in Oakfield and three in the City of Lockport.
Berry admitted filing 122 false federal income tax returns for people who had died. He must pay restitution for the stolen money.
Western New York is getting further into the winter season, and there is still time to winterize your vehicle.