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Berlin house explosion kills woman, 'heroic' neighbors rescue her daughter from debris

Berlin house explosion kills woman, 'heroic' neighbors rescue her daughter
Berlin house explosion kills woman, 'heroic' neighbors rescue her daughter 03:00

BERLIN - A house explosion in Berlin, Massachusetts early Friday morning killed one woman and sent another woman who was pulled from the rubble by neighbors to the hospital.

The woman who died has been identified as 79-year-old Judy Christensen. The fire chief said neighbors rushed to the scene to lift parts of the roof off her daughter as the fire spread. Christensen's daughter, who neighbors identified as Jill, is now in stable condition at a hospital with injuries that are not considered life-threatening.

"It was very heroic for them to be able to get in and lift that up and get her out from underneath that," Berlin Fire Chief Michael McQuillen said of the neighbors' actions. "The fire was advancing very quickly at that point. . . the seconds matter. Definitely was a factor in saving her life and keeping her alive."

The house explosion that killed a woman in Berlin CBS Boston

McQuillen said first responders were called to the scene at about 3:30 a.m. for reports of a house explosion at the 2.5-story wood frame home on Pleasant Street. 

Video taken by a neighbor shows the loud explosion.

Home explosion in Berlin, Mass.

Video shows a loud explosion at a home in Berlin, Massachusetts. One woman inside was killed, and another was rescued by neighbors

Posted by WBZ / CBS News Boston on Friday, April 14, 2023

"It's basically completely leveled," McQuillen said. "When it exploded it came down upon itself so there was nothing really standing except for a debris pile when we arrived."

He said there was a "large debris field" from the explosion, and materials could be seen hanging from the trees above where the house once stood. 

Debris in the trees from the Berlin house explosion. CBS Boston

Firefighters were still putting out hotspots later in the morning. There was minor damage to three other homes because of flying debris. 

Neighbors said they could feel the blast and heard screaming while the home was fully engulfed. But they still ran toward danger to try and save anyone inside. 

"It shows the dedication of their neighbors and the commitment  to each other that they have," McQuillen said. "They rushed in to put their lives in jeopardy."

Christensen worked at the Berlin General Store for two decades and co-workers said she was dedicated with an upbeat personality.

"She was well-remembered because she remembered everbody's orders," said owner Ed Munter. "She used to draw little pictures on the orders, on the wrapping paper for everybody to brighten up their day."

The cause of the fire was not immediately known and is being investigated. 

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