COLUMBUS, Ohio (WSYX/WTTE) – When a Columbus Police officer got the call about a possible explosion near downtown Columbus, he quickly rushed to the scene and was the first to jump on top of the rubble, helping to pull two victims to safety. Two people – a woman and a man – were critically injured in the house explosion, suffering burns and broken bones.
The officer’s body camera caught the scene as the victims cried out for help, and nearby construction workers and neighbors jumped in to help the responding officers get them free from the debris.
While yelling to other responders to call the gas company and get any gas turned off, they climbed on top of all the debris working to get to the victims as quickly as possible. The video shows other responding officers and witnesses running to the scene to help within minutes of the explosion. Prior to getting the call to the corner of North 20th Street and Atcheson Street, officers said they felt and heard the explosion, some thinking they might have hit something with their cruisers.
Cries of “keep talking to us!” and “don’t panic!” can be heard as neighbors work frantically to keep the victims calm while also clearing piles of debris from on top of them. After getting the victims free, officers then begin yelling at everyone to “get the hell out of here!” realizing that there could still be danger from gas lines at the scene.
One of the victims was identified Monday afternoon as 36-year-old Vernice Hill. Authorities have not yet released information about the man injured in the explosion, or whether the victims were inside the house at the time. The home was vacant according to city officials and had been checked just a few days prior.
Fire officials say woman hurt in morning blast was Vernice Hill,36. No word yet who her male companion is as families are still being notified. Both being treated @OSUWexMed pic.twitter.com/ShQocrfKLK
— Lu Ann Stoia (@stoiawsyx6) June 22, 2018
— WSYX ABC 6 (@wsyx6) June 22, 2018
Fire investigators say it looks like it was a natural gas explosion possibly caused by scrappers who had taken metal from the property. Several other nearby buildings and houses were damaged, including a duplex next door that lost an exterior wall, and a more than 100-year-old church nearby that had several old stained-glass windows destroyed.