Lone occupant of NJ home killed by explosion

RIDGEFIELD, N.J. — An explosion leveled a home in New Jersey on Monday, killing the lone occupant, who was pulled from the burning rubble by an off-duty police officer and first responders.

Police identified him Tuesday as 48-year-old Mark A. Schellack.

Heavy flames and a large plume of smoke rose from the two-story home Monday, which quickly crumbled to the ground after the morning explosion.

Authorities said one firefighter and two police officers suffered minor injuries fighting the blaze. The cause of the explosion is under investigation.

Officials praised off-duty officer Hagop Cigercioglu’s quick actions. Cigercioglu, who lives nearby, was out walking when the house exploded in Ridgefield, just outside New York City. The 14-year veteran immediately called for help.

When fellow first responders arrived, they heard moaning coming from under the rubble. Cigercioglu joined them in clearing a path and pulling Schellack out. Cigercioglu said Schellack collapsed in the officers’ arms. Schellack was taken to Hackensack University Medical Center for treatment to bad burns. He was later airlifted to Saint Barnabas Medical Center for further treatment, but in succumbed to his injuries early Tuesday morning.

Neighbors said the blast “sounded like a plane crash” and rattled their homes while spreading debris across a wide area. The debris damaged some nearby homes, and rattled residents were evacuated as a precaution while crews fought the blaze.

PIX11 contributed to this report.

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