Investigation, State of Emergency Continue After Oneonta Explosion
By DARLA M. YOUNGS
One person is dead and another injured following an explosion in the Town of Oneonta on Saturday, December 9. In a press release issued on the morning of Sunday, December 10, the Otsego County Sheriff’s Office reported that on Saturday, at approximately 5:28 p.m., the Otsego County 911 Center began receiving multiple 911 calls reporting an explosion and residential structure fire on Richards Avenue in the Town of Oneonta. The Oneonta Fire Department and mutual aid departments responded. Upon arrival, they found multiple residential structures with severe damage and an active structure fire.
According to the press release, a state of emergency has been declared by Oneonta Town Supervisor Randal Mowers until further notice. The state of emergency is still in effect as of press time.
Additional resources from the City of Oneonta Police Department, Otsego County Office of Emergency Services, Otsego County Sheriff’s Office, Otsego County Ambulance, New York State Police, New York State Office of Fire Prevention and Control, and NYSEG responded to the scene, the release said. Deputies and members of various fire departments assisted residents in the immediate area with a precautionary evacuation.
Once the fire was extinguished, the Sheriff’s Office reported that an occupant of one of the residences was found deceased and a neighboring resident received medical attention for minor injuries sustained during the explosion. The deceased individual was later identified as Desmond D. Moan, 60, who lived at 18 Richards Avenue where the explosion occurred.
The investigation is ongoing. The New York State Office of Fire Prevention and Control will be the lead agency during this investigation and will be assisted by investigators from the Otsego County Sheriff’s Office. The press release states there is no threat to the public at this time.
Additional assistance was provided on scene by the New York State Police, Oneonta City Police Department, Otsego County Office of Emergency Services, Otsego County Ambulance, Oneonta Fire Department, and members of the Laurens, Otego, Milford, Franklin, Schenevus, West Oneonta, and Worcester fire departments.
In an update on Monday, December 11, the Sheriff’s Office confirmed the investigation is still ongoing but that officials are confident in their knowledge of the events preceding the explosion at 18 Richards Avenue.
“Upon information gained from examination of the scene, interviews and forensic examinations, our investigation concluded that an action by the resident resulted in a non-intended natural gas leak. The escaping gases’ contact with an ignition source resulted in the explosion,” the report reads.
According to the Sheriff’s Office, inspections and damage assessment is still ongoing. Fifty property parcels and more than 60 residents and their families have been affected, and 43 residents were displaced as a result of the blast.
At present, the Otsego County Sheriff’s Office is providing security to the homes and residences in the affected area. Additionally, the Sheriff’s Office is providing assistance to the Town of Oneonta and the Otsego County Office of Emergency Services in their support of tasks related to the incident, officials said.
Frank Cea, who works at Country Club Motors and lives at 22 Richards Avenue, wrote on Facebook: “I appreciate everyone texting and messaging me. I am fine. Darlene is a bit traumatized because she was in the house and felt the blast. I was at the store and was called by a friend that this had happened. My neighbor got Darlene out, and the dogs, and our other neighbors corralled the pooches ‘til I got there. There is moderate to severe structural damage to the house. It is likely a long term 4-6 month process [at least]. The adjuster is meeting me tomorrow. Copper is temporarily in a kennel and as soon as I catch my breath I will work on getting everything back together again. Thank you to everyone but thanks be to God for saving my family.”
Cea and wife Darlene reside just three houses from where the explosion occurred.
All properties within the area bounded by Winney Hill Road to the west, Blanchard Avenue and Butler Street to the north, Jackson Avenue, Madison Avenue and Murdock Avenue to the east and Chestnut Street to the south are affected, according to a news release.
Residents affected by the explosion and resulting fires who require housing can contact the Otsego County Office of Emergency Services at (607) 547-5351 for assistance. That department is also partnering with the American Red Cross to provide additional resources including disaster mental health services.
For the latest updates on the situation, and services being offered, visit townofoneonta.org.