San Diego

‘Everything Shook': Explosion at Unoccupied Townhouse Lifts Roof Off Building, Blows Out Windows

“We just heard this loud boom. The whole house shook, everything shook. We didn't know what was going on,” said one neighbor.

A gas explosion at a National City townhouse lifted the roof off the building and blew the windows out, rocking the entire neighborhood. 

The explosion happened at approximately 4:04 p.m. Monday at East 8th Street and Harbison Avenue, at an unoccupied town home and condo development. 

Tuesday morning, the owner of the condo still didn't know the cause of the explosion, but knows it was triggered by a gas leak.

National City Fire officials responded and shut off the gas at the scene, securing the building. 

The tranquility of the extended holiday weekend ended abruptly for witnesses Daniel Desiga and his wife.

“We just heard this loud boom. The whole house shook, everything shook. We didn't know what was going on,” Desiga said.

Desiga lives just below the townhouse that exploded. The debris field is large enough to reach his back yard.

"The smoke was just coming out water was spraying everywhere. Luckily no one was in there,” Desiga said.

The unoccupied town home is one of 16 units in the final phase of construction. Firefighters say that hours before the blast, a plumber was connecting the main line to indoor gas lines.

"It did lift the structure up and the roof off the structure, and walls are bowing out. We do have a number of broken boards up in the attack, and most of the ceiling upstairs is blown down,” National City Fire Captain Mike Shoemaker said.

Fire investigators say gas was leaking into not just one, but several of the attics in several units. The blast was contained to just the one townhome.

National City Mayor Ron Morrison lives nearby, but wasn’t home at the time.

“My family called and said the whole house shook and they wondered what's going on,” Mayor Morrison said.

The Mayor came to investigate. He says the project has had a lot of problems, including the installation of the hot water tanks.

"Originally in the plans, the hot water tanks were supposed to be in the attics; they decided to put them outside and didn't change the plans,” Mayor Morrison said.

NBC7 spoke to the developer, who said they had been finishing the condos to rent out. The Fire Captain says this is one of a number of projects the company has built in National City.

The developer is frustrated by the latest setback.

The damage estimate is over $100,000 dollars; building inspectors say the unit will have to be demolished.

The incident is under investigation. 

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