Kewanee man survives explosion by escaping before house collapses

KEWANEE, Illinois - By all accounts in Kewanee, a home explosion on Wednesday, January 11 should have killed Eddie Bickers, 65.

"It really rocked the ground," neighbor Kevin Blust recalled the next day. "The flames were high."

Bickers was home on his computer when the 4 p.m. explosion occurred.

"He's very sweet," said neighbor Destiny Rasmussen. "He's one of the nicest guys."

"He'd give the shirt off his back for somebody he didn't even know," added his cousin, Sherry Nimrick.

Maybe that kindness gave him the strength to crawl out before his house collapsed.

He was fortunate to get out with non-life threatening second degree burns that put him in the hospital in Springfield, Illinois.

"Very lucky," Rasmussen said.  "The house came down in about 10 minutes."

In Thursday's daylight, all of the damage is even harder to comprehend.

While firefighters investigate the cause of the blast, they suspect a gas explosion ignited by something inside the house.

Charred debris is like a snapshot in time.  The blast buried a bike and boat while planting a picture frame.  Still, a row of cans remained in place among the ruins.

"Some of the debris from his house ended up across the way here," Nimrick said.

The strange scene attracted plenty of drive-by onlookers.

"We're okay, and Eddie's okay," Nimrick continued.  "That's all that matters."

While Eddie has insurance, dealing with all this won't be easy.

"It's a terrible thing," Blust said.  "The guy is without a house."

The Facebook group, Team H.O.P.E. , is organizing items to help Eddie to bounce back.

"You never know in life," added neighbor Nancy Snyder. "Something could happen really fast."

And just as quickly as his house came down, friends and strangers are coming to the rescue.

"Man, I'm praying for him," Rasmussen concluded.  "Going through this is hard. It's tough."

Still, not tough enough to topple a survivor who beat the blast.