Guilford Lake man injured in explosion, house fire

GUILFORD LAKE – A man was taken by helicopter to an Akron burn unit Friday night after an explosion at his Guilford Lake home.

The man, identified by witnesses only as John or Johnny, lived alone in the home at 6284 Votaw Drive and reportedly works as a welder’s assistant for the nearby natural gas pipeline operation.

Next-door neighbor Keith House said John had walked over and asked him for a cup of milk only minutes before the explosion, around 6:30 p.m.

House said John went to another neighbor’s house after he didn’t have any milk to give, and shortly after returned to his own home.

“He went into his house and that’s when I heard an explosion, and a couple of seconds later he came around the corner and told me to call 911. I told him to get in front of my house because there were propane tanks right up against his house,” House said.

During that time he attempted to calm John.

“I tried to get him to sit down, but he didn’t want to. His skin was coming off of his hands and starting to come off of his face. It looked like if you were to touch his face the skin would have come off,” he said.

East Palestine Volunteer Fire Department Lt. Rick Gorby also heard the explosion and ran to the back of John’s home thinking he was inside.

“I knew he had to be in there, but he already ran out and was at the neighbor’s house,” he said.

Gorby was at the lake vacationing with family and had met John for the first time minutes before the explosion.

“He came over and asked for a glass of milk,” he said.

Gorby provided John with the milk and minutes later his family heard an explosion and looked outside to see flames shooting from the front of John’s home. He immediately ran over and saw John, noticing how badly he was injured.

“He got burnt pretty bad,” he said.

House, who lives on Votaw Drive year-round, said John had been living in the cottage home about three months, and he only knew him as a neighbor.

House’s home was not damaged, although the siding on the house to the other side melted, he said.

Once firefighters from the Hanoverton, Guilford Lake and Winona departments arrived, the fire was extinguished quickly, he added. Damascus firefighters were on standby for the Winona and Hanover Township departments.

EMT Ambulance also responded, and John was taken to the Akron hospital by STAT MedEvac. Hanover Township Fire Chief Frank Baker was not immediately available Friday night.

Gorby said a video of the fire is available on the East Palestine Fire Department’s Facebook page.