RIDGEFIELD, N.J. (CBSNewYork) – An off-duty police officer saved a man who was trapped underneath the rubble of his New Jersey home after an explosion Monday.
When the sound of an explosion rocked the quiet neighborhood of Ridgefield around 11:30 a.m., Hagop Cigercioglu did what he always does; he ran toward danger, this time in his own neighborhood.
“You get into this mode where a switch is flipped on and you’re just in saving-life mode,” Cigercioglu told CBS2’s Jessica Layton.
He didn’t know it, but he was indeed about to save the life of a man trapped beneath his own belongings. The officer radioed into dispatch and in mere minutes, 14 fellow officers were on that fiery, smoldering scene with him.
“When we got to the scene, the house was completely leveled. There was debris everywhere. We responded to the back of the house where we heard a noise, the party moaning,” Cigercioglu said.
Together, the officers lifted a heavy wooden plank off the weak, disoriented homeowner and helped him crawl to safety.
“I was like, ‘Just crawl to me, crawl to me,'” Cigercioglu said. “All the energy he had, he used to get out of that house … He eventually collapsed and we pulled him out.”
Meanwhile, the smoke from the explosion could be seen from miles away. The blast shook the whole street and rattled the nerves of neighbors.
“I just saw house, then I heard that boom and then I just saw it, like, slowly drop down,” neighbor Christian Rojas said.
“It was like a sonic boom. It was like boom, and my whole window shook and my whole house shook. And I screamed up to my son, ‘What was that?'” another neighbor said.
“Unbelievable. Unbelievable. Something that, like, you don’t think would happen right next door to your house,” neighbor Nick Picnic said.
The force of the blast blew out windows on Picnic’s car, which was parked 150 feet away.
Gas and electric utilities were shut off to the homes in the area as investigators tried to pinpoint the cause.
“We were held up with fire suppression operations due to a gas leak. We do not know if gas leak existed before or after the explosion, that is under investigation right now,” Ridgefield fire chief David Brierty said.
Neighbors say last month they did smell a gas leak, and PSE&G came out and fixed a pipe on the same block. It’s unknown if that had anything to do with Monday’s explosion.
The only thing that’s clear is that if not for Cigercioglu and his brave colleagues, at least one person could have certainly lost his life.
Cigercioglu says his wife and daughter will be glad to see him home safe.
“I’m sure they’re going to give me a big hug and squeeze me, and you know, I’m gonna talk about it and be happy that everything worked out and that I’m home safe,” Cigercioglu said.
Authorities are not saying much about the victim’s condition except he is still in the hospital.
One firefighter was treated for heat exhaustion, and two police officers were injured. One officer suffered a twisted ankle, and the other officer was cut on a nail.