Local Man an Unintended Hero at S. Philly Home Explosion

By Queen Muse
|  Monday, Jul 29, 2013  |  Updated 5:36 PM EDT
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Investigators say the contractor was working in the basement of a home on the 400 block of Daly when the house exploded, injuring 8 people. NBC10's Monique Braxton reports with the latest.

NBC10 - Monique Braxton reports.

Investigators say the contractor was working in the basement of a home on the 400 block of Daly when the house exploded, injuring 8 people. NBC10's Monique Braxton reports with the latest.

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Eric La-Salle, 32,  has lived in South Philadelphia his entire life, but he says he's never seen anything like what he witnessed today.

"The whole house just came caving in and there was so much smoke," La-Salle said.

La-Salle says he was driving down 4th Street on his way to work when he witnessed the home at 428 Daly Street explode and then collapse before his eyes. La-Salle says he immediately jumped out of his car, ran towards the collapse and was able to safely pull a man from the wreckage.

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"I actually was just driving by and I saw it as soon as it collapsed. I saw it fall down and I got out and I ran up and I just heard him. And I helped him out and brought him down to the corner," La-Salle said. " When I took him down to the end of the block the police and ambulance and all weren't even here yet so he was sitting there waiting for them to get there, that's why I brought him closer to the corner."

La-Salle believes the man he pulled from the building was the contractor that Philadelphia Deputy Fire Commissioner Derrick Sawyer says was working on a water heater inside the home when the explosion occurred.

Bashira Bey, also a resident of the 400 block of Daly Street, says she saw the man when La-Salle brought him to the corner.

"They had the man out here for half-an hour. His skin was just coming off of him. It looked like a monster movie. He was burned really bad," Bey said.

Despite the severity of the scene, La-Salle says he never took thought of his own safety.

"I didn't even think, I don't know, it was just a natural reaction. I didn't even think about my safety or anything, I just climbed up and pulled him out. I guess I could've got hurt but in that moment though I was just trying to--you know cause he was screaming help and his skin was peeling off of his arms and there was blood--I just didn't know what else to do. I just ran up and grabbed him. I did what I would've wanted someone to do for me," he said.

The explosion destroyed at least three homes along Daly Street, sending eight people to the hospital.

Sekeya Fields was not home when the explosion occurred, but she says her house was located directly next to the home that exploded.

"My boyfriend was on the porch when the bricks and everything just started falling on him. My daughter said she was in the bedroom and next thing she knew she was in the kitchen because her room literally collapsed through the floor," Fields said.

Fields' 15-year-old daughter Shaquorie Fields was later transported to Jefferson Hospital with minor injuries.

Kim Killian, 25, says most of her family lived on the block.

"My mother was home with the kids and she said she was asleep on the couch when she heard a loud explosion. She said she almost fell off the couch it shook so hard," Killian said.

"A fireman went back in and got my baby's formula and medicine, but that's it; we can't go back in. I don't know where we're gonna go tonight because it's my house, my mom is in 411, my sister is in 416, so usually you can go to family, but we're all out right now."

Bey says she believes the structure of some of the homes in the area are not sound and that may have contributed to the severity of the subsequent collapse.

"These houses are over 80 years old. Even though today was triggered by a gas explosion, I think these houses need to be evaluated; a lot of them are just not structurally sound."

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