Newlyweds Chelsea and Josiah Wagner were planning to move into their newly renovated home in the Town of Newstead later this week. In fact, they almost spent Monday night as their first in the house.
Luckily for them, they didn’t.
Their unoccupied home on Berghorn Road was wrecked in an explosion early Tuesday morning.
The back wall of the 1½-story wood-frame farmhouse was blown out, and the force of the explosion knocked the two-story section of the home off its foundation.
“I feel like it could have been a lot worse,” Chelsea Wagner said from the scene later Tuesday morning. “If it had been a week from now, we would have been living there, and we would have been inside when the explosion occurred.”
Authorities were quick to rule out any intentional act in the explosion.
“Foul play is not suspected at this point,” Erie County Sheriff’s Capt. Ronald L. Kenyon said. “There’s no indication of any incendiary device or fuel.”
After the explosion, the Wagners were interviewed by agents from the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, or ATF, as the investigation apparently focused on the propane used to heat the home.
“We do not know,” Chelsea Wagner said of the cause. “We were told it might be connected to the propane, but they haven’t completed their investigation.”
The couple purchased the home at 7745 Berghorn Road in April 2012.
“It was kind of a fixer-upper, and we’ve been working on it in our spare time, on weekends,” Chelsea Wagner said.
The couple has been moving in gradually, and she said they even thought about spending the night there Monday, before opting to wait until they had moved more of their belongings.
Shortly before 6 a.m., the Wagners got a phone call from the Sheriff’s Office telling them about the explosion and trying to make sure no one was in the home when the blast occurred.
A passer-by reported the explosion to authorities shortly before 5:30 a.m. Investigators later learned that a neighbor heard a loud boom much earlier, apparently between 2 and 3 a.m., but they have not been able to pinpoint an exact time.
Chelsea Wagner was asked what she and her husband planned to do about the house.
“We’re still trying to figure it out,” she said.
Last year, a similar explosion turned into a tragedy for a family in Wilson.
On July 24, 2012, an early morning propane explosion ripped apart the Johnson family’s house at 4972 Chestnut Road as most of them were sleeping, killing 14-year-old Sarah and critically injuring her 19-year-old sister, Katie, who was badly burned. Their parents, Judith and Jody Johnson, were also injured.
A buildup of propane ignited in their basement and leveled the house.
The injured family members have continued to heal, the ruins of the house were cleared and the family sold the property and relocated to a new home in Wilson. But a lawsuit filed by the Johnsons against propane supplier Noco Energy remains far from settled.
In the lawsuit filed in State Supreme Court in Niagara County in October 2012, the Johnsons said they had reported to Noco the day before the explosion that there was a smell of gas and that Noco failed to treat the matter as an emergency.
Noco representatives have contended that the Noco tank was not connected at the time of the explosion but that another propane tank, not installed by Noco, was connected.
News Niagara Reporter Nancy A. Fischer contributed to this report. email: firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com