Fire marshal releases report on home explosion

Posted at 9:50 PM, Mar 15, 2016

A Northfield Center Township home that exploded in January, leaving a family of four dead, still stands. That’s as officials battle with the mortgage company and try to find the fastest way to demolish it.

“What’s the hold up?” said Paul Buescher, a Northfield Center Township trustee. “The bank.”

The insurance company denied liability because the fire was ruled arson. So Buescher said Huntington Bank, the mortgage company, is now responsible. But they have continued to stall.

A spokesman from Huntington sent NewsChannel 5 this response Tuesday:

“As mortgage servicer on the property, which is still privately held by the estate, we are in the final stages of facilitating authorization for demolition. This is expected within the month. Over the past several weeks Huntington has been working with the parties involved including the township, the estate and the insurance company to facilitate this process.”

Instead of waiting, the township board of trustees passed a resolution last month to demolish the home on Skyhaven Drive using the Summit County Land Bank.

The Land Bank said it still needed to pass its own resolution to do the work and that won’t happen until next week. After that, the demolition would take place within days at a cost of $8,000, paid for by delinquent tax collections which funds the Land Bank.

“It’s disrespectful,” said Kim Pelsoczi, who lives near the home and drives by it every day. “It needs to be cleaned up, and it’s the beginning of moving on.”

The state fire marshal, which investigated the explosion, released its arson findings to NewsChannel 5. In it, it stated that the fire started in the master bedroom on the home’s second floor. An ignitable liquid was used to accelerated the spread of the fire. A gas can was found next to the father’s body.

Also in the report was what a family friend told fire investigators: “[Jeff] Mather felt he was going to be fired from his work for not doing a good enough job.” Mills [the friend] stated these worries were completely unfounded as Mather was an excellent employee.”

The report also stated that the mother, Cynthia Mather, and her two daughters had fallen through from the second floor to the first floor when the explosion happened. Jeff Mather, the father, was found in the back area of the first floor.

The Summit County Medical Examiner has yet to release its findings as to how Cynthia, Jeff, Ruthie and Allyson died. The office said it is still waiting on test results.