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No One Injured : Explosion Shatters 2 Canoga Apartments

Times Staff Writer

A powerful explosion ripped through a Canoga Park apartment building Thursday, destroying two units and hurling furniture and people through the air, but left no injuries.

“It’s unbelievable that no one was injured,” Los Angeles City Fire Battalion Chief Alfredo Vega said as he surveyed the building. An accumulation of gas may have fueled the blast, but the cause was still under investigation, Vega said.

The explosion at the 52-unit Park Regency on Saticoy Street, two blocks east of Topanga Canyon Boulevard, shattered windows, blew doors off their hinges and rattled neighboring houses and apartments.

“I thought I was dead,” tenant Laurie Anderson said, tears welling in her eyes after the blast. “I thought I was a goner.”

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No One Was Home

The explosion was centered in two apartments on the second floor of the east wing, but none of the occupants of those units was home at the time, Vega said. It was not clear how many people were in the building, he said.

Aura Gallo said she was watching television with her daughter Marcela, 4, when “the girl flew” off the floor and onto the sofa next to her.

“I thought it was the end of the world,” Gallo said. So did Marcela, who began crying, “Mami, nos vamos a morir” (“Mommy, we’re going to die”), Gallo said.

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The top level of the building’s east wing may have to be demolished, Vega said. The Red Cross was arranging shelter for six families whose units were rendered uninhabitable.

“It blew the door wide open--dead-bolt and all,” said Anderson, 23, who was taking a bath when she heard a low whistling sound just before the explosion about 10:45 a.m. She said she ran to the front door of her apartment, directly beneath the center of the explosion, and “saw pieces of building flying.”

The explosion also blew the door off Cathy Cheaney’s first-floor apartment. “I just had the door fixed for about $70,” she complained.

Cheaney was among many residents and passers-by sifting the rubble for victims before firefighters arrived to take up the search.

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There was no fire. Vega said the blast was so powerful it would have snuffed out flames.

“The wind from it actually blew my hair back, and my ears are still buzzing,” first-floor resident Pamela Smith said.

Many residents could not assess the damage because firefighters would not allow them to return until after the investigation.

But Gallo and Azucena Garcia said all their possessions survived. “None of my things broke,” said Garcia, 73, who was having breakfast with her husband, Manuel, 88, when the explosion occurred.

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George Gains, who lives in a neighboring apartment building, said he was about to leave his apartment, with his hand on the doorknob, when the vacuum from the explosion behind him sucked open the door so forcefully it almost knocked him down.

Gains said he knew the sound was an explosion or a sonic boom--"and I know the Concorde doesn’t fly around here.”


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