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Family Of 79-Year-Old Martha Dagbatsa Speaks Out After Deadly Bronx Blast

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Crews worked Wednesday on the homes destroyed by that huge house explosion in the Bronx Tuesday.

Investigators are still trying to pinpoint a cause, but they suspect it was gas.

"All I heard was like a bomb, boom! And everything fell," said homeowner Lydia Velez.

Velez was home just two doors down from the explosion Tuesday.

"I looked out the window and I saw a woman in the back, so I start knocking at the door, nobody would pay attention," Velez said.

Velez, 86, ran out to try and help, shocked by the sight of fire and the smoke.

"This is my home that I work all my life for it, we live here 36 years," Velez said.

She's among those who returned Wednesday before the Fox Street homes, built on memories, were demolished.

"There's a blanket that the tenant from upstairs made for my father," said Jose Rojas.

That's all his mother wanted from her home. Her emotional son was grateful firefighters got her out.

"Thank God for that," Rojas said.

Many commended the officers who raced in, rescuing a woman trapped underneath furniture. The rescue was captured on NYPD Capt. Anthony Mascia's body camera.

"I think they were just trying to save somebody. They were trying to get in there, they heard cries for help and they weren't gonna leave until we got to her," Mascia said.

Also on that video is a neighbor who came by before the blast because he smelled gas.

"He went in to ask her did she have a leak and she didn't smell it. They sat down, they were talking, and I guess that's when the explosion happened," one person said.

Tragically, 79-year-old Martha Dagbatsa, inside during the explosion, didn't survive. Her family released the following statement:

We have lost Mrs. Martha Amoateng Dagbatsa, 79, a devoted wife, mother, grandmother, auntie and sister. We mourn her departure from this world but find comfort knowing she is resting in peace with our Lord in Heaven. Thank you to everyone who has reached out to the family to offer your condolences.

We are happy to report that Mrs. Dagbatsa's sister, who survived the incident, is doing well and on the road to recovery.

Thank you to community members Christopher Rodriguez and Benancio Caba for your heroic actions, immediately jumping into action and helping victims to safety.

Thank you to the courageous first responders from NYPD, FDNY and EMS. We pray for the speedy recovery of the injured 41st Precinct officers.

We're happy that our neighbors on and around Fox St. are okay and are saddened that some of you have lost or been put out of your homes. We pray for you and your families.

We will not provide further comments at this time and ask, respectfully, that members of the media please give us space to grieve privately. Thank you.

"I knew she was in there. I knew she was in there," said neighbor Barbara Eison-White. "She said I'm always in the house reading the Bible."

"It's like watching a movie, it's surreal," Dagbatsa's daughter-in-law told CBS2's John Dias over the phone. "I don't know what to say. There are no words."

Sources say, as part of the investigation, fire marshals are speaking to the survivor of the blast about complaints of a gas odor. The next step is getting access to the basement to check gas connections to the boiler and gas meter.

The sister of the woman who died remains in the hospital. Five police officers were also injured in the response to the fire but have been released.

The American Red Cross is helping 10 families who were displaced find housing.

While the official cause remains under investigation, Con Ed has gas safety tips. For more information on those, CLICK HERE.

John Dias contributed to this report. Editor's note: This story was first published Jan. 19.

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