House explodes

Cary Ashby • Updated Feb 1, 2019 at 3:11 PM

VERMILION TOWNSHIP — Authorities arrested a man who fled a vehicle that hit a house on East Darrow Road about a half-mile away inside a burglarized residence Thursday.

Kenneth E. Karnow, 56, of Vermilion, was arrested about 2:15 p.m. Thursday at a residence in the 3900 block of Ohio 60. He was charged with burglary and failure to control. 

“It appeared he forced entry into the house and was found in a closet,” Erie County Sheriff Paul Sigsworth said. “When he was arrested, he had a head injury that he sustained earlier. … It didn’t appear to be serious.” 

After Karnow was treated at Firelands Regional Medical Center, he was booked into the Erie County Jail. 

Sigsworth said the house owners or caretakers were checking on it when they found signs of forced entry and called the sheriff’s office.

Karnow’s arrest happened nearly 12 hours after the vehicle he reportedly was driving hit the house at 15319 E. Darrow Road in Vermilion Township. Sigsworth said the driver was eastbound, lost control and the Ford Explorer went off the left side of the road, hitting the west side of house near the front, which broke the gas supply line.

“Due to the broken gas supply line, eventually the house exploded,” the sheriff added. “The house is completely destroyed.”

Karnow also lives on Darrow Road. Sigsworth said the suspect’s home is “a mile or less” from the destroyed house.

The husband and wife who live on Darrow Road were sleeping at the time of the collision. 

“The impact obviously woke them up,” said Sigsworth, who estimated the explosion happened within 10 minutes of the husband calling 9-1-1. 

Tracy Haslage told Fox 8 he was awoken by the sound of tires losing contact on the street outside his home. He was in the home with his wife, Jenn.

“We got up, grabbed our phones and went downstairs,” he said. “Then we heard the high-pressure gas line and we smelled the gas in the house. We rushed to get the dogs out and opened up the doors … but unfortunately by the time we got outside … a few minutes later the house exploded and burst into flames.”

Deputy Jeremy Geary arrived just before the explosion, within about three minutes of the 9-1-1 call. Haslage, according to the call, told a dispatcher “there’s someone in the car” and encouraged deputies to “get here quick.”

Sigsworth said Karnow was out of the vehicle by the time the deputy arrived and the subsequent explosion blew Geary several feet into the air.

“It knocked him down. Fortunately he was not injured severely,” the sheriff added. “(The explosion) did significant damage to his cruiser. … The blast blew out several windows. There was a lot of cosmetic damage from the debris.”

Geary was treated at Firelands Regional Medical Center and released. The deputy’s mother told FOX 8’s Jessica Dill that her son suffered whiplash from the blast and was resting at home. The homeowners said Geary was trying to save the person in the car, but he didn’t know the man fled the scene already.

The couple’s dogs went missing right after the blast, but were found later at separate locations.

“We were all outside the house when it exploded,” Haslage told Fox 8. “The explosion shook the dogs. They were not on the leash because we had no time and they ran off because of the sound.”

One of the dogs, a brown dog, wandered into an area Holiday Inn later in the morning. Sigsworth said the younger, gray dog was found near the Willow Creek Golf Club, about a half-mile east of the residence. 

The Vermilion Township Fire Department responded to the scene.

“Hats off to them, they were working in absolutely brutal conditions,” Sigsworth said.

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