Body found after explosion levels Rockville home
By: fox5dc.com staff , Lindsay Watts
Updated:Mar 20 2017 08:03AM EDT ROCKVILLE, Md. -
Officials said Saturday that a person and "domestic animal" were found dead inside the Rockville home destroyed in an early-morning explosion and fire Friday on Ashley Drive in the Randolph Hills neighborhood.
"It's not yet able to be identified as the occupant, that identification will come once an autopsy is completed," said Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Chief Scott Goldstein.
Goldstein also said that it was still unclear whether the blast was intentional or accidental.
"No additional information is available or has come to light pertaining to the origin or initiation of the explosion," he said.
Neighbors fear it was the owner of the home and his dog who were killed.
Fire officials say the explosion could be felt over a mile away and that 911 calls were received from residents as far as three to four miles away.
According to a public notice (CLICK HERE TO READ NOTICE), the home was set for auction on Friday at 1:30 p.m. The auctioneers confirm to FOX 5 the home was in foreclosure and say that the auction was canceled the previous day by the law firm involved in the sale. The reason is unknown.
Neighbors say the resident had not been consistently living in the home for some time. However, fire investigators say there was evidence he was in the home earlier in the week.
Washington Gas says gas service was cut off to the house in June 2015. However, their meter-reading devices detected that unauthorized gas usage started last December.
"Basically he was tampering with his meter and was able to reestablish his gas service to his house," said Douglas Staebler, the senior vice president of utility operations for Washington Gas.
"It's too early in the investigation for us to identify if there is something that contributed that was gas-related," Goldstein said.
The fire chief reassured residents that the homes in the Randolph Hills neighborhood are safe and the gas services being provided are safe.
Goldstein said ten homes and nine vehicles were damaged as a result of the blast. A family has been displaced from the one of the damaged homes after it was declared unsafe to occupy.
"The remaining houses have various degrees of damage and vary from blast to minor structural issues," said Goldstein.
Peter Rice, who lives right across the street from the home that exploded, now has a crack in his basement wall. Rice said he knew his neighbor well.
"He would come over and he would sharpen the blades on my lawnmower, he would borrow my grill. He was always building things and doing plumbing things," Rice said. "Something did change, and I don't know exactly what that event was or what it was, but suddenly he became a lot more elusive."
He said the change happened several years ago.
Fire officials tell FOX 5 they are aware of reports from neighbors that ammunition and firearms were kept in the house. Officials do not believe this would have contributed to the explosion.
Paul Ricci lives in the area and recorded video of the flames following the explosion. He said the impact felt similar to the 2011 earthquake that struck the D.C. area.
”It jolted me right out of bed. We immediately got up and started wondering what was happening,” Ricci said. “We took a look around outside and noticed a glow. Someone came running by and said a house blew up - that immediately sent a shiver up our spine.”
The neighborhood has seen a house leveled by an explosion in recent memory. In May 2011 an explosion destroyed a home on the same street, killing two people, after a resident disconnected a clothes drier's gas service without capping the line, Piringer said.