PARMA HEIGHTS, Ohio (WOIO) - The homeowner of a Parma Heights house that exploded on December 21 has been identified as the James Bartko.
The 85-year-old homeowner was confirmed the victim by the Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner’s Office.
Shortly after the explosion Parma Heights Police said they found a body inside the house at Mallo Place, but it would take several days to confirm the identity of the victim.
Parma Heights first responders were searching for an elderly homeowner, but it is unknown at the time if it was his body police found.
Parma Heights Fire Chief Mike Lasky confirmed on the scene that the house exploded and was engulfed in flames around 1:30 p.m.
“Our first priority is life safety and that’s looking for the individuals in the house,” said Chief Lasky. “Obviously taking care of our guys, that’s our number one priority, and taking care of the houses that are around it.”
The cause of the blast is unknown at this time.
The day of the fire Detectives said it is unknown if the elderly man who lives there was at home at the time, but a car was found in the garage.
A neighbor said she was in her driveway when the explosion happened.
“All of a sudden, there was this large boom,” said Caitlin George. “It shook the house, windows, everything. I’m standing in the driveway and it’s raining ash everywhere and I look over and there’s smoke everywhere, just pure black smoke.”
Chief Lasky said no one outside of the house was injured.
The house that exploded is clearly in shambles, but authorities are still estimating the damage done to the nearby homes.
“It’s just sad, it’s just horrible,” said Anna Andruchiw. “Nobody deserves to go like this, nobody does. Terrible.”
Police guarded the house the night of the explosion since it is an active crime scene and until they determine what caused the explosion.
Columbia Gas cut off gas to the cul-de-sac but restored it around 6 p.m. that evening.
Fire crews arrived from multiple cities arrived to help on the scene, which included: Parma Heights, Parma, Middleburg Heights, Brooklyn, Brook Park, and North Royalton.
Return to 19 News for updates.