Neighbors return to site of house explosion in Moon; police find pot plants growing nearby
By Bill Zlatos
Published: Sunday, Oct. 13, 2013, 12:42 p.m.
Investigators combed through rubble on Sunday to find the cause of a home explosion in Moon that injured two men, damaged 18 buildings and allowed a surprising discovery of marijuana growing in a nearby house.
“It's like a 1,000-piece puzzle blown up in the air and scattered all around,” said Moon volunteer fire Chief John Scott. “You got to find all the pieces and put them back together.”
Neighbors and responders reported smelling natural gas at the time of the blast Saturday evening, and investigators are considering it as a possible source. Don Brucker, chief deputy fire marshal of Allegheny County, said his office might X-ray the valve positions on equipment such as the home's furnace, clothes dryer, water tank, stove and the main electrical panel to determine a cause of the explosion.
“This will be a lengthy investigation. It could be days into weeks,” he said.
Shawn Landa, 47, whose home on Charlton Heights Road exploded at 6:44 p.m. Saturday, was in serious condition in UPMC Mercy, an administrator at the Uptown hospital said. Investigators said he had second-degree burns on 12 percent of his body. Neighbors found him beneath debris in his front yard. He could not be reached for comment.
Alan Lisica, 61, who lives next door, was listed in fair condition in Mercy.
“I've got so many holes on me I couldn't tell you. (There are) splinters of glass all over me,” Lisica said by phone from his hospital bed.
Despite having a wall fall on him, Lisica called himself a “lucky” man.
“It didn't get me,” he said.
The damage to neighboring houses allowed police to make a surprising discovery when they saw a man trying to remove and hide mature marijuana plants. Moon police said they charged William Amend, 61, with drug charges because of what they found inside and outside his damaged home.
About 1 p.m. Sunday, officers pulled out at least 15 plants, 12 rifles, a pistol, ammunition and equipment used to grow plants inside and outside. The odor of the plants wafted in the air as authorities put them on a tarp, wrapped them up and took them away.
Neighbors were surprised by the marijuana plants, but not by the guns because they said Amend is a hunter. Amend was awaiting arraignment on Sunday night.
Daylight revealed the extent of destruction at Landa's house. A 6-foot section of a white picket fence stood in his yard. The house was leveled, and a bulldozer cleared wood, bricks and broken glass. Debris dangled from homes along the street.
Greeting cards from family, including Landa's estranged wife Sheri, littered the lawns of neighbors. Court records show his wife has a protection-from-abuse order against Landa, which she accused him of violating in April. She could not be reached.
Lisica said he told authorities how he thought the explosion happened but declined to elaborate. He said he could barely remember the incident except that he was reading a newspaper on his computer when the wall caved in on him.
Police declined to discuss what Lisica told them or to discuss the investigation.
The blast happened a day after a house exploded less than 30 miles away in Follansbee, W.Va. That explosion killed a girl living inside. Neighbors reported smelling natural gas moments before that blast Friday morning.
In Moon, Rachel Ford, a spokeswoman for Columbia Gas, said the utility found no leaks between its main line and the house. She said gas pipes in the house were converted to plastic in 1989.
Gas crews shut off service to the neighborhood as officials evacuated about 90 people from 30 nearby homes on Saturday night. They allowed neighbors to return on Sunday as officials examined 18 damaged homes. Ten had minor damage, and four were uninhabitable, Scott said.
Neighbor Rick Ruffing said some of the windows in his home next to Lisica's are blown out.
An 8-foot hole gapes in the southern wall, and siding is rippled.
Ruffing and his wife, Claudia, were attending a wedding reception when their son in South Dakota called them about the blast. If Ruffing had not attended the reception, he said he usually would have been watching the baseball playoffs or a football game on the other side of the wall that was blown out.
“The Lord took care of me,” he said.
Staff photographer Keith Hodan contributed to this report. Bill Zlatos is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7828 or email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Steelers to release LaMarr Woodley
- Primanti’s manager admits stealing $30,000 from restaurants
- Ex-Sandusky lawyer investigated in divorce case
- Kovacevic: Big Ben’s contract clock ticking
- Talented center Sutter is proving to be ‘pretty important’ for Penguins
- Parking tickets in Downtown Pittsburgh spark outrage
- Analysis: Kesler still on Pens’ radar as Shero aims to bring back ‘Big 3’
- Penn State’s Franklin cherishes memories of time spent in Pittsburgh
- Report: Man falls from roof of Bentleyville business
- NTSB: Corroded pipe, lack of inspections led to gas explosion
- Pitt’s Patterson second-team All-ACC, Zanna honorable mention