A house explosion in Whitehorse on Tuesday morning killed one person and sent another to hospital.
Jason Wolsky, the city’s acting fire chief, confirmed the owner of the home was sent to hospital, while the deceased was a neighbour.
He added that the cause of the explosion is still under investigation.
“I haven’t seen anything like this in my time at the department,” said Wolsky.
The blast happened Tuesday about 5:30 a.m. on Bates Crescent, in the Riverdale neighbourhood; it was felt by residents multiple kilometres away.
Debris littered the street, including insulation and piles of wood.
Felt like ‘earthquake’ and ‘bomb’: neighbours
Andrée Johnson-Sequeira, a neighbour across the street, was sleeping when the explosion shook her awake.
“Everything was falling off the walls all over the house,” she said.
She went to check on her kids and said there was glass strewn across her floor. She then stepped outside to check on other neighbours.
“I saw that the house across the street was annihilated. It was just gone,” she said.
A Google Maps image from September 2022 shows a large blue house at 17 Bates Crescent.
“It was the biggest house on the block and it was this beautiful, beautiful house and it was huge,” said Johnson-Sequeira.
But now, “there’s not even a wall standing.”
Johnson-Sequeira and others said that once they stepped outside, they didn’t see any flames or smoke coming from the lot — only a pile of rubble.
According to multiple neighbours, the owners of the home were a retired couple and the wife was away on holiday.
“They’re lovely neighbours, lovely people,” said Michael McIsaac with a hitch in his throat.
He added that over the years, the couple would check in on him and his wife as good neighbours do.
“I hope everyone’s OK.”
McIsaac said he doesn’t remember hearing anything, but woke up feeling like they were in an earthquake.
He said the force of the explosion destroyed a large bay window and he now has a wall “protruding” from the house.
“It seems that there’s been a big shift in our structure,” he said. “I don’t feel safe going in at this time and won’t until someone comes by to take a look at the structural integrity.”
Unlike Johnson-Sequeira and McIsaac, Jessica Hulstein was awake with her son when the blast happened.
“[It] just sounded like a bomb went off,” she said.
Compared to others, she said the damage to her home is minimal: fallen weather flashing, broken picture frames.
“We were lucky ’cause nothing else happened,” she said.
Hulstein said the neighbours on Bates Crescent are close and “we are all here for each other, that’s reassuring.”
Crews to investigate over coming days
The City of Whitehorse issued a news release on the incident late Tuesday morning.
“Residents can expect to see fire personnel, along with heavy equipment, in the area over the coming days as investigators work to comb through debris and determine the cause of the explosion,” it reads.
“There is no risk to the public at this time but Bates Crescent will be limited to local traffic only until further notice.”
Wolsky said part of the investigation will including taking aerial photographs to get a better sense of the size of the blast area.