Family of woman injured in explosion grateful to first responders

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A powerful explosion rattled North 20th Street Friday morning and reduced a home to rubble. The blast shattered windows in homes at least two blocks away, and the trees in the neighborhood rained bits of debris and insulation for days following the explosion.

Somehow, 36-year-old Vernice Hill survived the destruction.

"We're just humbled that she's still here with us," said Hill's brother, Aha Ausar.

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Columbus Division of Police body camera video shows first responders and good Samaritans running toward the debris despite the apparent threat of a natural gas leak. Ausar called the images humbling.

"I'm sure none of them woke up that morning knowing what they would be running into," said Ausar.

He said the body camera images reminded him of the heroism of first responders who raced to the rescue during 9/11.

"They showed up like they were from New York. Like, they came like the big time first responders that we see on national TV. Like, these guys really are heroes," said Ausar.

Family members said Hill suffered second and third-degree burns in the explosion and is facing a long road to recovery.

"She is miraculously doing well," said Ausar.

Hill's brother said her family is grateful to his sister's rescuers and said a restored faith in humanity has risen from the rubble.

"How, in a time of need, how we can all set aside our differences so fast and come together," said Ausar.

The building that exploded is owned by the Columbus Metropolitan Housing Authority. CMHA said the units were under renovation and said the building was vacant and locked.

Columbia Gas says testing shows none of its lines caused the explosion. The Columbus Division of Fire Arson Unit is investigating the cause of the explosion.

Firefighters said they're looking into whether someone stealing copper pipes or wires from the building disturbed an interior gas line and started a leak.

Firefighters said if so, the simple act of lighting a cigarette or switching on a light inside the unit could have ignited the explosion.

A second person, 33-year old Dontaye Conner, was also critically injured in the explosion. Both Conner and Hill remain hospitalized.