Man involved in Breckenridge house explosion recounts experience
For Anthony Arsenault and Dan Leitch, April 2 was a relatively unremarkable day.
The two sat on their couch watching movies inside their house on Royal Tiger Road in Breckenridge, where they’d been living for almost a year. At about 10:30 that evening, Arsenault — drifting in and out of sleep — decided to head to bed, and was followed shortly by Leitch.
Hours later, as the calendar flipped in the early morning to April 3, unremarkable suddenly shifted toward extraordinary and terrifying. Sometime during the night a sheet of snow and ice slid off the roof and sheared the gas line at the meter outside the house, filling the house with gas. At around 1 a.m. the gas found an ignition source, likely the furnace, and exploded with the men inside.
“I fell asleep almost immediately,” said Arsenault. “The next thing I remember is being in the air. It was dark, there was a loud explosion and I remember being airborne and thinking to myself I could die upon landing. I landed, and I didn’t die. And I just knew I had to get out of the house.”
Both Arsenault and Leitch were on the top floor of the house at the time of the explosion. After the blast both started shouting, trying to find each other and escape. Arsenault said the roof was blown away on Leitch’s side of the house, allowing him to jump out of the structure from the second floor. Arsenault, though his memory is somewhat hazy, recalls heading down the stairs and out the front door. (Attempts to contact Leitch for this story were unsuccessful.)
Outside, concerned neighbors had already gathered in the street trying to offer help to the men as they coped with the shock of what they’d just been through.
“Our neighbors were already out looking, because I guess it shook the whole neighborhood,” said Arsenault. “We knew an explosion happened, and we were almost positive it had to have been caused by a gas line. And Dan and me were just in shock. There were tears and laughter; we didn’t know what emotions to feel at that time. But we both made it out, and we were just glad to be alive.”
While both were able to escape the house alive, significant injuries and financial hardships followed as a result of the explosion. Arsenault said that Leitch was taken to a hospital in Denver with serious injuries to his back and lower body, but has since been released. Arsenault suffered a fractured humerus along with a concussion, scrapes, burns and singed-off hair.
Arsenault said that he would need surgery to repair his arm, but that given squabbles with the homeowner’s insurance company he’ll likely be forced to pay out of pocket for the cost-prohibitive procedure.
“It’s painful everyday,” he said. “My upper arm is completely immobile. I can feel the bone moving around in there, and it’s really achy. It’s black and blue and green all the way around, and it’s gotten worse since this happened. … I mean my future is up in the air. I had plans to make moves and do different things down the road, but this threw a wrench into things.”
In addition to the financial burdens brought on by injuries, Arsenault also lamented the loss of his belongings and those of his roommates.
“I lost my TV, all my clothes, my snowboarding gear and just a lot of my belongings. I went back and recovered a few things I could find from the ground. But it wasn’t a lot. It’s unfortunate. It sucks we lost everything and we’ve got these injuries. But all in all we’re happy to be alive.”
Luckily, members of the Summit County community have already begun fundraising efforts to help the men. A friend recently set up a GoFundMe campaign titled “For the boyz,” which has raised just under $5,000 so far. Additionally, Rocky Mountain Underground in Breckenridge will be hosting a fundraiser on Tuesday evening from 7 to 11 p.m., featuring live music from Tina Ferguson and keg donations from local breweries.
“We really appreciate everything the community is doing,” said Arsenault. “A lot of friends have made donations, and people have donated clothes and things. We’re really thankful for the support.”
Arsenault is currently living with his mom in Denver, but expects to return to Breckenridge in the near future.
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Six local artists will debut new works Friday as part of the Snowmass Art Walk, an initiative to connect the town’s existing public art with new installations this summer.