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Memorial Day took a destructive turn Monday night for a Flushing man who was treated for severe burns after an explosion rocked a garage he was in next to his home at 26-17 Murray St.
The blast, which neighbors said could be heard and felt more than a dozen blocks away, may have been caused by the ignition of a cloud of fuel when the lights were turned on in the garage, which housed a number of items including fireworks and fuel, Paul J. Browne, a city Police Department spokesman, told the New York Times.
When responders arrived at about 7 p.m., they rushed Justin Cohen, 31, to Jacobi Medical Center in the Bronx, and more than 15 emergency police, city Fire Department and bomb squad vehicles arrived on the shaded block to investigate and contain the fire.
The explosion started a fire that left Cohen with burns covering 70 percent of his body, according to The Times, and the roof of the garage collapsed in on itself. The incident left a startling scene next to the Cohen residence, which attracted dozens of neighbors from surrounding blocks, who stood in the street and on their stoops angling for a good look at what had happened to their laid-back block.
“I heard the boom and I said to myself that it just didn’t sound like a firecracker,” said Steve Grskokic, who walked over from his home on 22nd Avenue to survey the damage. “I was sitting in my living room and usually I hear everything, Shea Stadium, fireworks, the crowd. When I heard that boom, it made me jump.”
One of the first men to arrive on the scene said he saw Cohen as he was removed from the garage, according to a neighbor, who said he “is in bad shape. He had blood coming out of his ears.” The neighbor did not provide her name.
Ellen Misciagna said she heard the blast from her house several blocks away on 23rd Avenue.
“We heard a big explosion and thought it was fireworks. We ran down here to the corner because my mother lives here four doors down so we were scared. Everybody was running here,” she said from the porch of her mother’s home. “I feel horrible for the kid. That’s sick.”
Antonette Trupiano, who lives about 10 doors down from the Cohens, was one of the first on the scene because she was worried for the safety of her two daughters, who were at a house near the blast.
“Both of my daughters were in the house two doors down. They heard it and they saw it. I came tearing down the street like a maniac after I heard the boom and saw the smoke billowing,” she said. “One of my daughters is in the ambulance because her ears are ringing.”
The investigation into the cause of the explosion was ongoing, according to police.
Reach reporter Connor Adams Sheets by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4538.
©2010 Community Newspaper Group
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