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Explosion kills 2: Gas leak blamed for fiery blast

SHARE Explosion kills 2: Gas leak blamed for fiery blast

SARATOGA SPRINGS — Two people were killed Tuesday in an earth-rattling explosion that sparked a roaring blaze at a home in Saratoga Springs.

Utah County Sheriff's Sgt. Spencer Cannon said the bodies of the man and woman trapped in the wreckage were found by searchers shortly after 9 p.m., roughly five hours after the fiery blast rocked this north Utah County neighborhood.

Police believe they have recovered the bodies of April Roper, 24, who owned the home, and Questar employee Larry Radford, 48, from Pleasant Grove.

The bodies were found in the basement of the charred home, Cannon said.

A medical examiner had been dispatched to the scene to examine the bodies late Tuesday, Cannon said.

The 4 p.m. explosion is believed to have been caused by a punctured gas line near the home on Badger Lane. Earlier Tuesday, police said, a contractor struck a plastic pipe, releasing natural gas into the air.

Questar crews responded at 1:30 p.m. to fix the pipe and evacuate nearby homes, said Questar spokesman Darren Shepherd.

After the line was repaired, the Questar employee and April Roper returned to the home. Minutes later, the house exploded and a fire erupted, Cannon said.

The search for the two was being done slowly because officials didn't want emergency crews to suffer injuries as they sorted through the rubble, Cannon said.

The search couldn't begin until the fire was extinguished.

Witnesses and neighbors said the explosion shook houses in the neighborhood.

"It felt like a bomb," said Kevin Barningham, who was working on a nearby home. A group of people were outside the home, including children in strollers. The explosion was strong enough to knock the strollers over, Barningham said.

Shortly after the explosion, Barningham said he saw a man running toward the house, yelling, "My wife's in the house, my wife's in the house. Her name's April."

Greg Roper and the couple's 18-month-old daughter were outside the house and were not seriously injured. However, the child was taken by medical helicopter to Primary Children's Medical Center as a precaution, Cannon said.

She suffered some cuts on her face and was slightly dazed but was breathing OK and not crying, said neighbor Eddie Meyersick.

"We're used to hearing artillery and shells from Camp Williams," Meyersick said. "It was worse than that."

Although there were no other reported serious injuries, some of the injuries may not manifest themselves for days or weeks, Cannon said.

"It's lucky that more people weren't hurt," he said. "(But) blast injuries are unique. They're not always immediate (because they can) affect organs."

The finished home, estimated to be around 3,000 square feet, is considered a total loss, Cannon said. The Ropers had been in the home a month or so, neighbors said.

The debris radius was nearly 300 feet, Cannon said, and sent a recliner onto the roof of a nearby house. Sinks, wires and pipes lay splayed across the unfinished back yard of the home and on driveways of neighboring homes.

Emily Lopez said she was driving home to Eagle Mountain when she saw the smoke. When she rounded the bend on Pheasant Lane she saw the flames and called the fire department.

"It was bad, really, really, really on fire," Lopez said.

E-mail: sisraelsen@desnews.com