Blast critically injures elderly Montrose man

MONTROSE FIREFIGHTERS LOOK through the remains of a small rental house on 6175 Road after a propane heater exploded Tuesday morning. A 76-year-old man living the home was taken to the burn unit of Northern Colorado Medical Center in Greeley. The couple who own the home live next door. The wife of the landlord said she couldn’t believe their tenant survived the blast.

MONTROSE —A propane heater exploded, leveled a small rental house and seriously injured a man inside the home Tuesday morning.

Little was left of the structure by 9:15 a.m. as a backhoe scraped up debris and firefighters sprayed water on the smoking, blackened ruins.

At the scene of the explosion on 14013 6175 Road, Montrose Fire Chief Bob Pistor said the injured man, Lewie Willson, 76, had gotten a used propane heater from his brother and installed it in the house Monday night, but he couldn’t get it to work.

The owner of the house, Les Cook, who lives nearby, came to see Willson on Tuesday morning and complained of a strong smell of gas, Pistor said.
“(Cook) said he would go turn the gas off and told him to open up the windows,” Pistor said.

Willson then lit a cigarette, causing the explosion, he said.

According to Cook’s wife, Margaret Cook, the explosion rocked their home next door, at 13989 6175 Road. She said she couldn’t believe Willson survived.

“He must have been sitting by the south wall, and when Les got there, he was crawling out of a hole,” she said of Willson.

“It didn’t take long for the house to go, and I just knew Lewie was gone,” she said. “And then I saw them dragging him out,” she said.

Willson was taken to Montrose Memorial Hospital, spokeswoman Leann Tobin said, but soon was flown to the burn unit at North Colorado Medical Center in Greeley, according to the hospital. His condition was listed as critical Tuesday afternoon, hospital spokeswoman Sandy Carter said.

The 600-square-foot house was originally a garage, Pistor said.

The Fire Department received a call from the owner at 8:27 a.m. Tuesday to report the explosion, Pistor said.

Kelly Green, who lives about a mile away on LaSalle Road, said she heard a loud noise and saw a big puff of smoke over the ridge line from her home at approximately 8:30 a.m.


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