Woman escapes house explosion in Pine Island

Massive blast in Pine Island felt miles away

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  • Photos by Erika Norton On Nov. 22, A massive explosion left a house destroyed in Pine Island, but a woman trapped inside was able to escape.

  • A number of emergency response vehicles and responders were still at the scene of the explosion a few hours after a house explosion Tuesday night.

  • Photo by Becca Tucker This was all that remained of the Kunisch home on 91 Walling Road in Pine Island on Wednesday. The house exploded Tuesday afternoon.


While waiting for her three children to come home from school, a woman was somehow able to climb out of the rubble after a massive explosion destroyed her house on Tuesday afternoon.

Homeowner Denise Kunisch told police that a few minutes before 3:30 p.m. on Nov. 22, she arrived at her house at 91 Walling Road in Pine Island, let out her dog, and then noticed an odor she described as a rotten egg, sulfur smell in her house, according to Lt. Thomas Maslanka.

She said she went downstairs to investigate and found the odor to be very strong in the basement, so she opened a few windows and decided that she probably should get out of the house.

Before she could leave, the house exploded.

“I was the first one there,” Maslanka said, “and the house was completely collapsed and engulfed in flames.”

He said that Kunisch was able to get to her cell phone after the explosion, telling 911 operators that she believed she was under some debris in her basement, when in fact she was in her backyard.

One of her neighbors who came running over after the explosion saw her struggling to get out from underneath the debris, and helped her escape and move away from the house.

Kunisch was transported by Pine Island Ambulance to St. Anthony Community Hospital, where she was treated and released.

“It’s an absolute miracle that she wasn’t injured or killed,” Maslanka said. “Her kids were on their way home from school, in another 20 minutes they would have been getting off the bus at the house. Her husband was at work.”

At 7:53 p.m. on Tuesday night, Denise Kunisch posted on Facebook, “I am ok. I am in shock so not making much sense but I want you all to know I am ok. Feeling overwhelmed by the love & support of my family, friends, neighbors, this community. I really don't know what's going on or how I survived but I know for certain I have a guardian angel & beyond thankful to God. I love you all.”

‘Tremendous explosion’It took firefighters about an hour to bring the fire under control, but the house is a total loss, Maslanka said.

A piece of plywood sheeting for the house was found on the roof of the garage.

At his house three miles away from the explosion, Maslanka said his wife told him their very old dog, who is nearly deaf and has trouble with his vision, was sound asleep but when the explosion occurred, he jumped up.

“I’ve had people as far as eight, nine miles away tell me that they heard it or felt it,” Maslanka said, “so it was tremendous.”

After an investigation by Warwick police and the Orange County Fire Investigators, at this point the explosion does not appear to be a criminal matter. The cause and origin of the fire will be determined by the Orange County Fire investigators.

According to county records, the home was a 1994 ranch-style house fueled by natural gas.

Local reactionKatye Bombassaro, a neighbor about five houses down from the scene, was at home at the time of the explosion.

“It was loud,” Bombassaro said. “My house shook and some pictures fell off my wall, so it was a little nerve-wracking.”

She said a friend of hers was driving through and told Bombassaro about the fire, saying it was huge and that she should get the kids out just in case. She left her home with the rest of her family to go pick up her daughter from the school at the end of the road, but once they realized the fire wasn’t threatening their house, they went back home

Bombassaro described the Kunisch family as the nicest, kindest people, saying that she and Denise go to Crossfit workouts together sometimes and that they’re kids are friends as well.

“We’re sad,” she said, “but thankful that Denise got out okay and that no one was hurt.”

A GoFundMe campaign has been set up to raise money for the Kunisch family, and in just one day, over 1,000 people donated nearly $122,000.

Kerri Fenton Foley, the organizer of the campaign, also posted on her Facebook that donations of items such as large Rubbermaid containers, clothing (two boys size 7/8, girl’s size 10, women's medium and men's XL), socks and gift cards can be dropped off at CrossFit Warwick located at 77 Forester Ave., Warwick.

Other places in the tri-state area have expressed support as well.

The Allendale Police in Bergen County, N.J. posted a link to the GoFundMe campaign on Facebook. The post states that the Kunisch family has been “a staple in Allendale for decades,” serving “a dinner and a cold beer close to home and always do it with a smile.”

“Take a moment to make a donation and help them out,” the post continues. “Their family has been in Allendale doing the right thing for the community and now the community has a chance to pay that back.”

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