BUFFALO, N.Y. — Friday was a painful day for a North Buffalo neighborhood rallying around two families devastated by a house explosion Thursday night.
The man accused of causing the explosion, Santo Coke, is still at ECMC for a psychological evaluation. Investigators say he admitted to blowing up his house in an attempt to kill himself. The Erie County State's Attorney tells 2 On Your Side Coke was officially arraigned at the hospital late Friday.
What's left of Coke's home, 36 Covington Road, is hardly recognizable as a house. The leveled remains are barely more than a charred gaping space between two other damaged houses.
The Honans, living at 32 Covington, and the Tarapackis, at 40 Covington, spoke to 2 On Your Side about their pain over the loss of property. But they are admittedly grateful that no one was severely hurt or killed.
Neighbors managed to save the Tarapacki family's pets.
"We knew the people weren't home next door," said Jim Frank of the Tarapacki family. "They had two dogs. So myself and another neighbor ran back in the backyard and broke down the door to get the dogs out. And by that time, the house was engulfed in flames."
"I couldn't believe...looking at the total devastation," admits neighbor Iris Oakley of the fact that no one was seriously hurt, "I think it's pretty much a miracle."
All day, Friday, neighbors stopped by the houses to check on the families.
"They lost a lot of the toys that their kids had grown up with, that their grandchildren now use," said Oakley after speaking with the Honans. "A lot of memorabilia is lost. I think that's probably the most devastating."
Buffalo Fire allowed the families back into their homes, Friday, to salvage what they could.
A fire investigator tells 2 On Your Side, 32 Covington Road has over $100,000 in fire damage, but is structurally sound.
However, the Tarapacki family home, at 40 Covington, is slated for emergency demolition.
The only person injured was the man blamed for the explosion. We're told Coke suffered first degree burns on his face.
The fire investigator claims Coke allegedly removed the gas meter in the basement and used a candle to set off the explosion.
Frank: "It sounded like a tree had fallen on the house, I thought maybe my chimney had fallen down."
Investigators tell 2 On Your Side Coke likely survived the blast because he was in the basement and the force of the explosion went up and out.
We're told Coke was able to walk out of the house on his own. Buffalo Police found him on the street.
Coke faces one count of Arson in the Third Degree, two counts of Arson in the Fourth Degree, one count of Reckless Endangerment in the First Degree and one count of Criminal Mischief.
He will be held without bail after his forensic examination. He is scheduled to appear before Buffalo City Court Judge Shannon Heneghan on Wednesday, April 25 at 2 p.m. for a counsel appearance.
There is a crowdfunding donation page set up at YouCaring.com for the Tarapacki family to help them start over.