N. Buffalo home explodes in suspected suicide attempt, owner charged with arson

Apr 20, 2018

A chaotic scene emerged in North Buffalo Thursday night after a house exploded into flames on Covington Road.

WBFO Senior Reporter Eileen Buckley talked with Darlene English, who lives in a home next to the explosion.

"Well, I was in the bedroom and all of a sudden this room shook, like a big explosion, and then when I looked on the window, I seen fire and debris flying everywhere," English said. "The house next door to me is just about almost gone and my house just has smoke damage."

Police said the explosion was caused by a man who was attempting suicide. Friday morning police identified him as Santo Coke, 73. He was taken to Erie County Medical Center Thursday night, but Friday morning had been charged with three counts of arson, criminal mischief and reckless endangerment.

The scene at 36 Covington Rd. in North Buffalo Thursday night.
Credit Eileen Buckley / WBFO News

His two-story home at 36 Covington Rd. -- 5,200 square feet valued at $187,500 value, according to the online property search engine Zillow -- was leveled, while two neighboring houses were damaged.

Buffalo Police Captain Jeff Rinaldo said it was a "miracle" that nobody was injured in the explosion. He said officers responded quickly and were able to clear people out of their homes.

Emergency demolition will continue Friday morning. Police believe it was a natural gas explosion.