Suffolk County investigators are trying to determine the cause of yesterday's house explosion in Brentwood. The tragic blast killed an 18-month-old baby, Rah-Quan Laron Palmer, and injured around 17 other people. The boy's father, Rashamel Palmer, who was one of the injured, told Newsday, "He was my heart. I'm grieving my son. It's hard. We're trying to get through this together."
The explosion was so severe that it knocked the air conditioning units out of a neighboring home's windows and blew shrapnel into other homes, which had to be condemned. A neighbor told the Daily News, "We heard a big boom and the whole house shook. The glass broke on the upstairs. It sounded like a plane crashed. ... I thought maybe it was a tree or a car hit the house." Then he went outside, "The house was disintegrated. There was one gentleman standing with his clothes shredded and his body was covered in blood ... he was in shock."
Neighbors rushed to help authorities sift through debris and rescue the injured. Besides residents of the home—Rashamel Palmer, 28, Rah-Quan's mother Christina Morgan, 23, Calvin Harris, 23, and Irving Justiniano, 63—the others injured included a plumber, Michael Ray, 48, State Farm Insurance rep Patricia Salegna-Maqueda, 46, and neighbors Patricia Arnoth, 47, and her son, Michael Arnoth, 24. Morgan reportedly yelled, "My baby! Get my baby out!" as Rah-Quan was pulled from the rubble; a witness said, “You could see blood on her ears and arms. Some neighbors brought the dad out, too.... I went to him. The skin was peeling off his arms. It looked painful. I could not look anymore.”
National Grid says that there were no gas lines to the house or on the block, and the Prospect Drive property did have two huge propane tanks. WABC 7 reports, "[Authorities] believe those tanks somehow ignited." Suffolk County Detective Lieutenant Jack Fitzpatrick warned, "We won't have any answers on causes anytime soon. We'll be at this for quite some time," noting there were many witness statements to take.
The house has been under scrutiny before—last year, the homeowner was cited for illegally using it as a rooming house. The News said that the home was being occupied as part of a temporary housing program.