FENTON, MO (KTVI) - St. Louis County Bomb and Arson detectives are trying to determine what caused a house to explode in the 2100 block of Palatine Court in Fenton early Friday morning. Luckily, it was empty. The retired couple who lived there moved out two weeks ago and had just put it on the market.
Now it is a total loss.
The explosion happened at 4:50 a.m. Friday and was followed by a roaring fire that damaged the two homes on either side of it.
A neighbor reports seeing a young man running from the home right after the blast, and soon after, an ambulance was called to a nearby street to attend to a man badly burned.
That man is Ryan Beckler, 21, who had returned home to live with his mother and stepfather after getting out of jail on a theft charge last year.
His family lives next door to the home that exploded. Beckler is in the burn unit at Mercy Hospital in critical condition.
St. Louis County Police are not calling him a suspect and, as of Friday evening, police had made no arrests.
Along with the damage to the adjacent homes, a house down the street had several windows blown out, including one in the bedroom of Chris Curtis's son.
"He was sleeping and suddenly her heard the boom and the glass landed on him and he pushed it away without cutting himself. And of course it shattered all over his bedroom," Curtis said.
The owner of the home is retired Kirkwood police officer. He says even though he had moved out, the house still had gas service to the furnace and hot water heater.
Laclede Gas would not comment other than to say they are working with investigators to determine whether natural gas was involved.
"I'm still shaking," said neighbor Rose Vitale. "I haven't stopped shaking yet."
Video of Fire Posted to YouTube:
Watch Bobby Hughes' Road Runner Report