A husband and wife, both in their early 70s, died Saturday as their Newfield, New Jersey home burst into flames.
Officials identified the couple as 73-year-old John Paladino and 72-year-old Carole Paladino.
Their two-story house at 329 Oakwood Drive exploded at around 6:30 a.m., sending shock waves around the neighborhood that broke windows and startled residents.
“The residence involved is completely leveled,” according to emergency communication recorded on Broadcastify.com, which streams scanner traffic, and published on ABC News. “There’s nothing left.”
Wayne Ingling, a friend of the Paladinos and a volunteer firefighter in the nearby town of Vineland, described the destruction as “ground zero.”
Authorities suspect no foul play. Some think a gas leak could have caused the explosion that morphed into a menacing fireball, according to witnesses’ accounts.
A mere day before the tragic accident, the Paladinos upgraded their appliances, said a neighbor, who saw a truck deliver what appeared to be a stove.
Gas companies attended the scene to shut off service to some 15 homes, four of which sustained damages that required inspection.
“I just heard this Big Bang when we went downstairs all the glass was broken, everything was gone,” said Paul Vidal, as quoted by ABC 6.
Late Saturday, relatives and friends plowed through the debris in search of any intact items such as keepsakes and documents. Amid the rubble, strewed around the street, on power lines and atop trees, neighbors found greeting cards and letters, Al.com reported.
Husband and wife dead after early morning explosion obliterated their house, blasting debris as far as six houses away and rattling an entire town, officials said. https://t.co/fKFEjKvw5q— necn (@NECN) July 8, 2018
Although retired, the Paladinos remained active in their community. John Paladino served on the local school board and greeted mourners at a funeral home in Vineland.
“He always had a smile on his face, even in trying times, doing that work,” Ingling said. “If he saw me cutting the grass he’d pull the car in the driveway and come talk.”
Carole Paladino, who used to work as a school nurse, taught catechism, a series of questions and answers that reveal Christian principles, at their church.
“I’m heartbroken for them I feel so sick inside I hope they can find some peace,” said Jackie Davis, who lived near the Paladinos.
An autopsy scheduled on Sunday will determine the cause of death. Meanwhile, the investigation, carried out by the country fire marshal, a state police arson-bomb unit, the local police department and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, continues.