The Buffalo News, N.Y.
Jul. 20—The explosion at his Lackawanna neighbor’s home across the street was unlike anything Michael Salamone had seen before.
“It was disastrous,” said Salamone, a West Seneca Reserve Hose firefighter.
Salamone recalled walking to his front window, coffee in hand, and opening the drapes. And then “everything went white.”
“When the debris stopped falling and the smoke cleared, I could see the house across the street was leveled,” Salamone said. “It was gone.”
He immediately feared for the life of Irene Sanok, his 92-year-old neighbor.
“Her car was still there,” he said.
City officials confirmed Sanok died in the explosion at her Bedford Avenue home Tuesday morning.
She was pronounced dead at the scene by the Erie County Medical Examiner’s Office, according to the release from the city’s public information officer.
Sanok is believed to have been the only one inside the home when it exploded.
Neighbors knew her daily routine. She usually went to the store around 9:30 a.m.
“This was at about 7:30 in the morning,” Salamone said of the explosion.
“We all love her, and we check on her every day,” he said.
“To me it looked like we got hit with a bomb — it was crazy,” he said, recalling what he saw when he walked outside his home. “Everything’s falling, debris is falling, wood is falling. The roof was in our backyard. It was like the world was coming apart.”
The firefighters and police officers who first arrived at the house at 91 Bedford found the structure destroyed and a fire burning in the home’s foundation.
The call came in at 7:22 a.m., said Lackawanna Fire Department Capt. Gary Strzelczyk.
There did not appear to be any fire still burning around 8:30 a.m., but there was a “large debris field,” Strzelczyk said.
Bedford runs off Abbott Road across from Lackawanna High School.
The explosion damaged seven homes.
Karen Buntich, who lives down the street from where Sanok’s home exploded, said the blast woke her up.
“I was sleeping in bed and just heard, like, the whole earth move. It really was that bizarre,” Buntich said.
“How could this happen?” she said. “It’s right on your street and it can happen to anybody. What if it was right next door?”
The explosion also woke up Jason Salamone, Michael’s son.
“The boom woke me up — I thought it was a lightning strike on the roof,” he said. “I got up and ran out and was just floored. When you hear an explosion, you think maybe just part of a house would be destroyed … but the whole thing was leveled and it was very surreal to see that.”
When Michael Salamone walked outside, he saw “a huge fireball.”
“There were flames where the basement would be, and the house was totally leveled. There were some fire spots and some debris on fire in the street.”
Salamone said a woman’s car was buried in debris on the side of the house.
His firefighter instincts kicked in as he donned some old protective turnout gear and put out small fires with a fire extinguisher while trying to locate anyone who was injured.
“As a firefighter that’s all you care about — and these people I doubly care about because they’re my neighbors,” he said.
The explosion left more than 500 National Grid customers in the area without power Tuesday morning.
The incident remains under investigation by the city police and fire departments, the Erie County Sheriff’s Office and National Fuel. The investigation is expected to take several days, authorities said.
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