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HENRY COUNTY, OH (Toledo News Now) -
The Henry County EMA director has identified the victims from Wednesday morning's home explosion in Liberty Center. The Henry County Sheriff's Office says the explosion happened around 7:30 a.m. at County Road S and 9.
Henry County EMA director Tracy Busch says Steven Collins, 72, was taken to the hospital by air ambulance with serious burns. Collins was conscious, however, and able to tell EMS that Judy Garwood, 63, was inside the home before the explosion. Collins was the homeowner, and neighbors say Garwood was his fiance who was living with him.
Garwood was found dead in the rubble by emergency crews Wednesday afternoon. Officials do not believe anyone else is involved or missing in the explosion.
"All of a sudden, I hear this big, huge boom. Stuff starts flying. And I thought we had been hit by a plane," said neighbor Jean Sonnenberg.
Windows were blown out and debris covered yards of surrounding homes.
"The debris field is over a quarter mile long. You see insulation all the way past my truck out in the bean field out there. You don't know what to say, except it looked like a war zone," said Busch.
The house has been completely leveled. Busch says homes nearby are not structurally sound. On Wednesday morning, officials warned nearby homeowners not to go back inside their homes unless accompanied by a firefighter. They were not allowed to return until Wednesday afternoon.
The Red Cross is helping everyone at the scene, from firefighters to neighbors. Since firefighters cannot leave the scene, the Red Cross brought lunch to them, along with residents who were unable to go back home. According to the Red Cross, two families in adjacent homes will be assisted with lodging and food. The Red Cross will return Thursday to continue aiding those affected.
A school bus was en route during the time of the explosion. Officials say the school will have counselors on hand for children who witnessed the explosion.
"There is a lot of emotion, because, you know, people live right next door. They know them very well. It could have been their home. There's a lot of what-ifs," said Busch.
The cause of the explosion is undetermined at this time, but is believed to have been caused by a gas leak. The nearest natural gas line is located a mile away, but propane gas is used in the area. Neighbors say they saw a serviceman at the house Tuesday installing a propane tank.
Authorities are looking into the claim, but in the meantime, Busch is using this incident as an opportunity to remind residents of the dangers of gas.
"All we can do is pass on the word. Please follow the safety guidelines that your propane or your gas supplier gives you. If you've done work on your homes and you haven't had your line inspected, maybe, you know, it's a good thing to do that," said Busch.
An investigation will continue as crews search for clues buried in the rubble. Until they know what officially caused the explosion, officials are treating it like a crime scene.
This is the second home explosion in northwest Ohio in two weeks. On Sept. 17, a home exploded in Troy Township, killing a 65-year-old mother and her 37-year-old son.