Neighbors in shock after witnessing Washington home explosion, recall helping victims to safety

Published: Jan. 4, 2021 at 5:23 PM CST
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - A home explosion in Washington on Monday morning left two people injured and dozens of neighbors in shock.

It happened just after 4:00 a.m. in the 100 block of East Washington Street, according to officials. The blast rattled nearby buildings and even damaged some windows in homes close to the incident. Officials have not yet determined the cause of the explosion.

Later on Monday, nerves were still frayed for those who were awake at the time.

“I can still feel it in my body right now and we’re six hours past when it happened,” Chad Zear, a resident nearby, said.

Zear was up early in the morning after letting the dog out when the explosion happened about 200 feet away.

“There was a sudden flash of white-orange light through our windows and a major explosion. My wife jumped up and I asked her to make sure the garage wasn’t on fire,” Chad said.

Chad and his wife, Michelle, ran across the alley to make sure their neighbors were safe.

“When I got over there, I saw the child that lived over there, my husband, and a couple police officers who were yelling and helping and trying to rescue the other gentleman,” Michelle said.

“We were kind of looking around with my past experience being a fireman and just kind of assessing,” Chad said.

Chad said an uncle and young boy lived there. The boy is their son’s best friend.

“I saw a nurse coming from across the street. She was there to help, and I ran over to help him. He was in shock, just kind of wandering and we got him across the street and a blanket wrapped around him,” Michelle said.

They say they are thankful for the nurses and police officers that were on the scene helping. Now, they are waiting for an update on the victims’ conditions.

“They both were alert and that’s the good thing,” Chad said.

KCRG-TV9 spoke with the landlord Monday surveying the damage. He said he was doing some work on the building on Sunday night, but didn’t notice anything wrong at the time.

Brendan DeLong, the fire chief for the city, said it took about 15 minutes to get the fire under control.

“We don’t know what caused the explosion at this point, so we are always on our toes, trying to figure out and keep us safe as well, and figure out what we’re dealing with,” DeLong said.

The State Fire Marshal’s office is now investigating.

The Zears have damage to their windows and the blast moved their garage off its’ foundation, but they said what’s most important is that their neighbors are alive, along with the show of support from other neighbors who helped board up windows and check in on each other.

“In these times when everybody is on edge and worried about what’s going on, there’s no worry here, except we’re worried about the people in there,” Chad said. “We’re not worried about how they are going to survive afterwards because they are going to be taken care of, just know that.”

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