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Originally published Tuesday, September 27, 2011 at 5:35 PM

Neighbors marvel at blast, keep sniffing for leaks

Neighbors rocked by the gas explosion that literally cratered a North Seattle home Monday told stories of near misses and lucky breaks.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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They picked glass shards out of the lawn, boarded up their windows and surveyed cracked walls and collapsed ceilings with dismay.

Neighbors rocked by the gas explosion that literally cratered a North Seattle home Monday told stories of lucky breaks.

Noah Mahoney said his daughter, 15, was blown out of bed by the blast — and he felt lucky it hadn't been worse.

"I do a lot of welding, I fabricate metal, grind and weld, all of which creates a lot of sparks," Mahoney said.

Frendo Tabukang, who does maintenance for the International Full Gospel Fellowship, said he was grateful the blast didn't come during services, as he pointed to the windows blown out of the sanctuary by the explosion.

"It's just a good thing no one was in the building," he said, surveying a two-story wall of windows now boarded up, and the collapsed ceiling in a conference room. Concrete walls were cracked and shifted, and the windows in the church kitchen also were blown out — two blocks from the home destroyed by the blast.

"It's devastating," he said of the destruction of the home. "The two people that lived in the house, they are lucky to have survived; it is just the grace of God."

The day-care center operated by the church was closed for the day Monday as a precaution, and the nearby Seattle Jewish Community School delayed the start of school on Monday for the children's safety.

On Tuesday, the International Full Gospel Fellowship, despite boarded-up windows, was already back to its regular business.

Yael Sachs, director of operations for the Seattle Jewish Community School, gave PSE high marks for a quick and thorough inspection on Monday, and again on Tuesday, which turned up no leaks. Both Sachs and Tabukang said they felt that PSE's thorough follow-up after the blast had ensured the safety of the neighborhood.

In another house next door to the cratered lot, Putri Hiendarto said she and her family had just moved in two weeks ago.

The picture windows in the kitchen she loved, with the view to the back yard, were being boarded up, and contractors were picking broken glass out of the grass. Inside, cracks snaked through the walls, and soffit and insulation were blasted right out of the roof.

"You just don't expect something like this to happen," Hiendarto said. "We are feeling bad at how much damage there is, and there is that dread. We just keep smelling [for gas leaks]. If we smell anything, we are calling, that is for sure."

"Any leak is a big deal," said Andy Wappler, spokesman for PSE on the scene Tuesday. "I was there, I saw the house, you look at that, and you think, what if that were my family, it's in your gut.

"We are very motivated to find out through investigation what happened, so it never happens again."

Lynda V. Mapes: 206-464-2736 or lmapes@seattletimes.com

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