HINCKLEY TWP. — Two people were killed when their Hinckley Hills Road home exploded Monday morning, authorities said.
State fire marshal investigators confirmed two victims were recovered from the scene of the explosion and fire at 1488 Hinckley Hills Road. Positive identification of the victims had not been determined at press time, according to the Division of State Fire Marshal.
Police Chief Tim Kalavsky said the home belonged to Fred and Claire Martin, who are in their 60s.
Throughout the day, rescuers worked under the assumption the couple was home when the blast occurred, Kalavsky said, because both cars registered to the Martins were in the driveway and family members were unable to determine where else they might be.
The Division of State Fire Marshal reported the bodies were pulled out in the afternoon within a few hours of each other, and the cause of the blast has not yet been determined.
The family’s dog, described by neighbors as a large poodle named Jake, managed to escape the brunt of the blast and survived with minor injuries, Kalavsky said. The dog was found wandering behind the house about an hour after rescuers arrived, he said, and was transported to the Hinckley Animal Hospital.
Neighbors said the family’s black cat is still missing but was seen wandering the neighborhood just before the explosion.
The house, which was built in 1830, was heated by propane, Kalavsky said, which may have contributed to the explosion.
Hinckley firefighter Dan Landis said there was almost no structure left by the time rescuers arrived.
“The house was completely engulfed,” he said.
Neighbors reportedly called 911 after hearing a loud explosion around 7:20 a.m.
Teri Holmberg, who lives next door to the Martins, said she and her husband, a Hinckley volunteer firefighter, were home at the time of the explosion.
“It was like a sonic boom,” Holmberg said. “It shook the house.”
She said her husband checked around their house for the source of the noise before looking out the window toward their neighbors’ property.
“He runs in and says, ‘Dear God, the Martins’ house is on fire,’ ” she said.
Just Sunday, Holmberg said, her husband was helping the Martins dig their car out of their snowy driveway.
“They’re wonderful neighbors,” Holmberg said. “I can’t speak highly enough about them. I feel like I have a hole in my heart.”
Claire Martin was an English teacher at Highland Middle School for 20 years before leaving the school in 1999, Highland spokeswoman Dawn Marzano said.
“Some of the Fire Department staff, they probably had her as a schoolteacher,” Holmberg said.
She said Claire and Fred have three children and at least four grandchildren.
One of their sons was at the scene Monday afternoon but did not wish to comment.
In addition to Hinckley police and fire departments, units responded from Bath Township, Brunswick Hills Township, Richfield, Granger Township and the American Red Cross.
Contact Jennifer Pignolet at (330) 721-4063 or firstname.lastname@example.org.