ROYAL OAK (WWJ) – At least one person was killed and a house was destroyed in an explosion Wednesday afternoon, near Woodward Ave. and 13 Mile Road in Royal Oak.
While he wouldn’t speak to a specific cause, Royal Oak Fire Chief Chuck Thomas confirmed Consumers Energy gas crews had been working in the area before the explosion, which claimed the life of a 58-year-old man, who has not yet been identified.
“He was outside the house. All I know is he was right outside the perimeter of the house,” Thomas said.
WWJ Newsradio 950’s Lance Howard surveyed the damage from above the scene in Chopper 950.
“I’m looking at what’s no more than a vacant lot where a house once stood. The house exploded, completely leveling that home and severely damaging houses on both sides of it as well,” said Howard.
Howard said debris was spotted on the roofs and garages as far as two blocks away. Smoke could be seen for more than a mile away from the house, on Cooper Ave., east of Woodward and north of Normandy.
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More than two dozen homes were damaged in the immediate area of the blast. Several blocks away, businesses on Woodward Ave. are damaged, too.
“In reference to the power of this explosion, pilots at Oakland/Troy Airport, in the terminal, said that they could feel the concussion that rattled their chairs — and that’s about a mile from the scene,” Howard said.
Nearby neighbor Rich Donley said area residents were shocked and nervous.
“Suddenly a loud boom and the house shook. It felt like it was someone … their vehicle actually ran into our house,” Donley said. “We all jumped up, went outside and a lot of neighbors were out as well, also kind of shocked. They thought they were the only ones who’d felt it.”
Jim Hanson of Royal Oak added, “I got knocked off the couch — it sounded like a bomb, and a few things flew off the shelves. I ran outside and I looked down the street and I saw the flames just starting to rise.”
Former Oak Park Mayor Jerry Naftaly said he was coming out of a party store in the area when he heard the blast.
“I got into my car … heard a loud boom and thought somebody had hit me in the parking lot,” Naftaly told WWJ’s Zahra Huber. “As I drove by I saw the glass broken out of a couple of buildings on the Woodward side.”
The Oakland County Medical Examiner was on the scene Wednesday evening. The man who died is believed to be the occupant of the house that exploded.
The cause of the explosion is under investigation.