NORTHFIELD CENTER TOWNSHIP,Â Ohio — Four family members, including two young children,Â were killed Monday nightÂ after a house exploded in Northfield Center Township.
Northfield Center Fire Chief Frank Risko said a mother and her two daughters, ages 8 and 12, were found on the first floor near in a front hallway of theÂ two-story colonial-style house. The father was found in a room at the rear of the house.
Authorities have not identified the victims.
As of about 11:30 p.m., after discovering two of the bodies, officials temporarily suspended their search while representatives of the state fire marshal’s office and detectives from the Summit County Sheriff’s Office began their investigation into the cause of the blast.
Risko said early Tuesday thatÂ Dominion GasÂ company employees do not believe the blast was caused by a natural gas leak, but it hasn’t been ruled out.
Shortly after midnight, Risko announced that searchers had found the body of an adult male. The fourth victim, one of the children, was found just before 2 a.m. Tuesday.
“It is very sad, very sad,” Risko said, adding that this is the first fatal fire in his 25 years as fire chief. “It’s difficult. This is our first fatality as long as I can remember. … It’s not easy.”
The explosion at 7486 Skyhaven Road shook the residential neighborhood located just south of Ohio 8 and just east of Interstate 271.
Randy Nickschinski, 48, who lives just two doors away on Skylane Road, said he and his family were watching television when the explosion occurred. Nickschinski and his 19-year-old son, Nate, ran outside and saw the house in flames.
“It happened so fast,” Nickschinski said.
He ran to the home with his son and they were able to kick in the front door. The family’s dog came running out, he said. Then he, his son and a neighbor all went inside the home and were yelling for the family but received no response.
“There was a lot of fire, a lot of debris,” Nickschinski said. “It was very eerie. … We were yelling and nothing. We were just looking everywhere.”
He said they left the home, then went inside a second time but again found nothing.
“You’d do the same thing if you got kids,” he said.
“It’s like a dream,” he said. “It can’t be happening. It’s not happening.”
Neighbors gathered in front of the home Monday night despite temperatures in the teens, waiting for news of what happened to the family.Â Nickschinski’s daughter, Danielle Nickschinski, 18, said she had baby-sat in the past for the family’s two young girls.
“They were very outgoing and nice,” she said. “They always wanted to play.”
Maria Allanson, whose house is just a few doors away on East Oakmont Way, said the explosion shook her home so much that she thought a car had driven into her house.
“The left part of the house was totally involved in flames,” Allanson said. “It happenedÂ in seconds. … It’s very sad.”
She said another neighbor had found the family’s dog and was caring for it.
Township Trustee Paul Beuscher, who was at the scene, said the incidentÂ was “devastating.”
“You just pray and hope for the best,” Beuscher said. “It’s terrible. … You pray with the family, grieve with the family and help anyway you can.”Â
Emergency crews were called to the scene about 8:44 p.m. and found the house fully engulfed in flames.Â
â€” Cliff Pinckard (@cpinckard) January 12, 2016