2 critically injured in explosion at Newport house

NEWPORT, Ky. - Two people were critically injured and a Northern Kentucky home was destroyed after an explosion at the residence Friday morning.

Newport fire officials say an explosion caused a large fire at the home located in the 1600 block of Waterworks Road in Newport at about 4:10 a.m. Witnesses said the explosion sounded like a "war zone."

Officials say natural gas was fueling the fire, but the cause of the actual explosion is being investigated.

"We start out looking for if there was any smell of gas or anything they reported beforehand. If there was some type of natural gas leak in the house. But the explosion itself could've caused some type of pipe break," said Newport Fire Captain Patrick Krogman. "We start there looking at where exactly people were and what happened or what they saw when the explosion occurred."

Officials say Ida Neal and her son Dwayne Luttrell sustained critical burns in the explosion and emergency crews transported them to University of Cincinnati Medical Center for treatment. Neal suffered burns to her face and hands will be released from the hospital in the next 2-3 days.

Luttrell suffered third degree burns over 78 percent of his body and will have to remain hospitalized for the next 2-4 months for treatment. He is now on a breathing tube, officials say.

Police say Neal and her son were responsive and talking when they left the scene.

A third victim, Neal's husband Paul, sustained a compressed fracture in his back and cuts on his hand.

Newport resident, Andy Crail said he heard the explosion from his neighboring house and ran outside to see what happened.

"I sounded like a bomb went off, I didn't know what to think," Crail said.

Crail and other witnesses found a victim at the scene and pulled him to safety.

"It was just the first thing, the right thing to do, I guess," Crail said.

Fire officials commended neighbors for stepping up during a crisis.

"It's great. You have to be careful sometimes doing that, we've had neighbors that jumped into help and got themselves in trouble, but you know, if you can help somebody out, especially with this extreme cold -- they took one patient into the house across the street -- that's what it's all about, helping each other," Krogman said.

The house went up in flames after the explosion and one officer said the house "fell into a pit" when it exploded. The frigid temperatures have made fighting the fire more difficult. The water quickly turned into ice, creating slick conditions for the firefighters.

"We're dealing with fighting the fire, which is dealing with fighting with the heat, and those type of problems, and going to the extreme opposite, dealing with the cold and frostbite," Krogman said.

An estimated cost of damages has not yet been released.

The family had two dogs inside the home at the time of the fire that have not been located.

Neal lost her only other child, a son in his late 20s, to cancer last month.

Officials have not released any additional details about the explosion at this time.

A fund has been set up in benefit of Paul and Ida Neal as well as Dwayne Luttrell. Donations can be made at the Bank of Kentucky under Crescent Springs Baptist Church.

Stay with 9 On Your Side and WCPO.com for updates as they become available.

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Editor's note: A previous version of the story incorrectly identified the address. We regret the error.

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