9 Officers Injured After Connecticut Building Explodes During Standoff With Hostage Suspect

Authorities made a gruesome discovery early Thursday when they found human remains in a structure that burned following an explosion that capped an hours-long attempt by officers to coax a barricaded man from the North Haven property.

A woman, who sources say was held hostage for several days but had escaped, contacted North Haven police about 2:30 p.m., bringing authorities to her Quinnipiac Avenue home. Officers spent several hours trying to get the woman’s estranged husband out, but as the standoff progressed, a barn on the property exploded, touching off a massive fire.

Officials believe the man was inside the barn when it exploded. They said remains were found in the structure, but have not identified the individual as they await an autopsy by the office of the chief medical examiner.

The SWAT team members broke a window on the building and, as they did, they heard the man yell something loudly before the explosion, sources said. It was full of potentially flammable materials such as chlorine containers for the pool.

They do not yet know the cause of the fire. The state police, New Haven and FBI bomb squads were combing through the rubble Thursday morning looking for clues.

Police are not sure how the wife managed to escape from the house on Wednesday afternoon at about 2:30 p.m., but she ran to a neighbor, who called 911. Sources said that the man had held her inside the house for several days, possibly going back to Saturday.

By the time the barn exploded, six hours after the woman contacted authorities, North Haven police had been joined by a regional SWAT team. Police officials said Thursday morning that five East Haven officers, three North Haven officers and an officer from Branford — all members of the SWAT Team — were hospitalized.

“They all suffered injuries consistent with the blast,” North Haven Deputy Police Chief Jonathan Mulhern said.

Visiting SWAT team responders were taken to Yale New Haven Hospital.

Officials with Yale New Haven Hospital said they received a total of nine patients following the explosion. They were all in fair condition Thursday morning. By midday, East Haven police confirmed three of their officers had been released from the hospital, but two remained with serious injuries.

First Selectman Michael Freda said he, Police Chief Thomas McLoughlin and chaplain Father Michael Santiago visited with the officers and their families at Yale New Haven Hospital Thursday afternoon. Two, he said, had been released before they arrived.

He said those still in the hospital were positive and upbeat.

“These men are true heroes,” Freda said. “They were the frontlines who went into that barn that exploded.”

Governor Dannel P. Malloy released a statement on the explosion, saying: “Our hearts go out to the brave first responders who put their lives on the line, and we wish those injured a safe and speedy recovery. Yesterday’s tragedy serves as a stark reminder that domestic violence is a serious issue that must continue to be addressed and remain at the forefront of the national conversation.”

Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman was quick to shine a light on the woman’s actions. In a statement, Wyman said: “I applaud the woman who reported this incident, she showed tremendous bravery and courage. Her actions may have saved lives, including her own.”

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SOURCE: Hartford Courant, Nicholas Rondinone, Dave Altimari, Josh Kovner and Matthew Ormseth