JANUARY 8, 2016
Two Floyd County men in their mid 70s were critically injured after a Martha area mobile home they were doing contract remodeling on suddenly exploded in a major detonation that was felt and heard by neighbors up to three miles away on Thursday afternoon.
Those two victims, Earl Rogers, 75 and Charles Hunt, 74, were flown to Cabell Huntington hospital, according to fire crews at the scene.
The mobile home is next to the Martha post office, a well known staple in the western Lawrence County area. However, smoldering rubble is all that was left after the explosion Thursday afternoon.
“We heard something like a loud boom, then the foundation of our home shook,” Charlene Mollett, who lives half a mile from where the explosion occurred, said. “At first I thought it was a small tremble or maybe an earthquake.”
“I was standing in my kitchen when I felt the foundation of my house shake. And I ran in to check on my mother to see if she had felt the same thing that I did,” said Kelly Mollett, who also lives nearby.
Thinking it could be a bad wreck or even an earthquake, it didn’t take long before Mollett discovered that an explosion took place, not far away from her house.
“It’s devastating to think something minor could’ve caused this much damage,” said Mollett.
“I hope that their families are okay, and that the men make it out alive,” said Mollett.
Marcella Staniford lives a quarter of a mile away from the site of the explosion. She raced down the road after she heard and felt the boom a little before 3:30 p.m.
“One was lying on the ground, one was standing there,” neighbor Marcella Standiford said. “They had a lot of debris and stuff on them.” The two burned men told her they’d pulled themselves out from under debris. Part of the home had been blown on top of them.
Staniford says the victims told her they were from Floyd County and were 74 and 75 years old.
“They said they’d turned the propane gas on,” Staniford said. “They had a furnace inside the home, and they had gone in the back door, and as soon as they opened the back door they heard a click, and then the explosion.”
She says it was apparent they were in shock and were badly burned.
“One man, the top layer of skin was burned off the top of his head,” she said. “The skin on one of his hands was removed.”
Blaine Fire Chieft, Butch Smith, says the victims are ‘extremely lucky to be alive’
Chief Smith said the two male victims were both responsive and talking before they were flown out to a Huntington, West Virginia trauma center. He said one man was in critical condition, and the other had serious injuries.
After rescuing the men inside, fire crews quickly put out the small fire at the center of the trailer.
The blast caused windows of the vacant house across the street to shatter, said chief Smith.
The force of the blast blew the back window out of a nearby Martha U.S. Post Office. One local man’s daughter, who works there, rushed out to see the damage.
While the cause of the explosion has yet to be determined, investigators said the Kentucky State Fire Marshal thinks a propane gas leak may have played a role. The fire chief also said they found live power and gas lines on the property, which were later shut off.
The investigation into what caused the powerful blast has just gotten started, but the state fire marshal said the bulk of that work will be done starting early Friday when there is more light.
The state fire marshal plans to return to the scene Friday to investigate the cause.