Tahlequah Daily Press

February 3, 2013

Update: Man critical after house explosion

By JOSH NEWTON
Staff Writer

TAHLEQUAH — A Cherokee County man was in critical condition Sunday morning after his house exploded Saturday night in the Briggs area.

Authorities said Jeff Saddler was home alone when the explosion occurred. The blast could be heard several miles away, and sent debris in all directions. Cherokee County Undersheriff Jason Chennault said his family felt the explosion from their house a mile away from the scene. He said insulation from the home was found at least a half mile from the explosion, which was east of TNT Grocery on State Highway 51, east of Tahlequah.

"From what we have seen so far, it appears to have been a propane explosion," said Chennault. "The house is a total loss."

Investigators arrived early Sunday morning to survey the damage and believe the explosion was caused by a build-up of propane. Chennault said a gas cook stove had been installed in the home prior to the incident.

"We're not sure if that was the origin, but the investigators tell us it looks like it was an explosion from a low point in the house," said Chennualt. "It blew everything into the air."

First responders said Saddler was pulled from the rubble of the home, and was buried beneath debris from the floor. He was transported to Tahlequah City Hospital in an ambulance and soon after flown to a Tulsa hospital.

Chennault said Saddler had only been living in the home for about a week.

Pieces of the home's roof, clothing, and other items were scattered in nearby trees. A door of the home was blown across S.H. 51.

Oklahoma Highway Patrol troopers had to shut down the highway Saturday evening as first responders arrived at the scene, and debris had to be moved out of the road before traffic was allowed through the area.