Illinois man found dead after large explosion rocks neighborhood. Turns out he cut into a gas tank that went boom.


COUNCIL BLUFFS, IA – A man in Iowa is dead after he cut into a gas tank that had been filled with compressed natural gas, causing a large explosion. The blast from the explosion could be felt for blocks around the house.

Council Bluffs Police and Fire Department responded to a large explosion in a residential area located near North 35th Street and Avenue G before noon on January 3rd. When they arrived on the scene, they found a detached garage that was destroyed and a dead man inside.

Council Bluffs Fire Marshal Alex Ford reported on the 4th that police and firefighters found the deceased, 56-year-old Martin Desomma, and a large natural gas cylinder tank, described as five feet tall and a foot in diameter, inside what was left of the garage. The natural gas tank was the type typically used for fueling larger vehicles that use natural gas, like garbage trucks.

Council Bluffs Firefighters also located two other natural gas tanks on Desomma’s property which they removed out of safety concerns for his neighbors. Currently, no one knows for sure why Desomma had the tanks on his property. The Fire Marshall said:

“We don’t know how [Desomma] came to possess [the gas tanks]. I don’t know if that’s something you can get at a salvage yard. That’s the first time we’ve seen them at somebody’s house.”

Fire Marshal Ford reported that they believe that the explosion was caused when Desomma attempted to cut into the cylinder which still had, at least, some natural gas inside. He said authorities believe this because they found what he described as a “cutting wheel.” He said:

“We found some evidence that maybe he was trying to cut into it, like a cutting wheel. We’ll never know truly what happened, but that’s what we’re speculating he was doing [at the time of the explosion].”

Neither police nor the fire department have reported if Desomma lives at the residence alone or what his occupation might have been. They did report, however, that he was the only person who suffered any injuries during the explosion.

WSFA12 spoke to some local residents who were home at the time of the explosion. One person, Anthony Savala, was watching television when it happened, he told them:

“And the house just literally felt like it was coming off the ground, it shook that bad. And then there was stuff falling off the wall in the bathroom. At first, I said to my dad it sounded like a bomb, then we thought it was upstairs because it was that close.”

Anthony’s father, Sal Savala, said that he ventured outside after the explosion to determine what may have occurred. Sal said that there was debris across the residential block and saw that Desomma had been thrown out into the street by the explosion. He said:

“The house was gone, and all I seen was body parts. I didn’t know what to think, my emotions kicked in. I started crying when I see what I seen. I never seen nothing like that before.”

The exact cause of the crash and Desomma’s death is still under investigation. Desomma’s remains have been taken to the medical examiner’s office where an autopsy will be performed to determine the exact cause of death.

While there are people who recycle old gas cylinders, they do so after they have ensured they have been properly emptied of any and all gas inside. If like possibly in this situation, the tank has not been properly emptied, even residue inside of the tank could explode when it is met with the sparks caused by a cutting device.

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