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Baby killed, 14 injured in New York house explosion; gas leak suspected

An explosion razed this two-story home on Long Island shortly before noon on Tuesday
An explosion razed this two-story home on Long Island shortly before noon on Tuesdaynbcnewyork.com

NEW YORK -- An 18-month-old baby has died and 14 people were hospitalized after a house exploded on Long Island on Tuesday, officials said.

Police and firefighters sifted through the rubble of the two-story home on Prospect Drive in Brentwood after the explosion razed the structure shortly before noon.

Four of the people in the home when it exploded -- three adults and baby -- lived at the residence. A real estate agent and a plumber were also in the home.

"One of them came out, and his clothes were all ripped, his face was all bloody," said neighbor Anthony Acevedo. "The mother of the baby that came out, she was bloody and crying, and she kept screaming, 'My baby's in there, my baby's in there.'" 

Another neighbor, who often waved to the family, said he saw rescuers pull the baby from the rubble.

"That's the sad part, and that image just kills me," said Carlos Bescosne.

Officials have condemned the houses on both sides of the explosion, which were badly damaged. Police said a next-door neighbor suffered minor injuries.

Five police officers were treated for smoke inhalation and two firefighters suffered injuries at the scene, officials said.

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The victims were taken to three area hospitals. The 18-month-old baby boy died at Southside hospital, authorities said. Three of the adults in the home were seriously injured.

Dave Grant heard the explosion from about seven blocks away and raced to the scene. He heard one officer yelling "We need help!'' and said he helped lift the collapsed roof to rescue a man.

Another woman, Dawn Paris, said the explosion shook her house and she lives a mile away.

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Frank Catalano, a worker with AMS Restoration and Environmental Services said that a pipe had burst in the house last week, causing a flood.

"There were issues in the house," Catalano said. "The condition wasn't the greatest."

The house had been illegally converted into a rooming house with at least eight rooms, which were being rented for $300 a month, said Inez Birbiglia, a spokeswoman for the Town of Islip. The owner of the house was issued 10 summonses for code violations in Sept. 2011 and was given until this October to bring the house into compliance.

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The cause of the explosion is under investigation. Authorities say two propane tanks were discovered in the debris and are investigating if the propane may have contributed to the explosion.

National Grid spokeswoman Wendy Ladd says it appears natural gas was not used in that house or on the entire block.

Last April, another home in Brentwood exploded. The home was vacant at the time and no one was injured, though 21 people from neighboring homes were taken to the hospital for evaluation.

A gas leak was believed to have caused that explosion.

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