After the explosion: Easton student recalls 'flash, smoke and debris'
Dazed and battered, Matt Tarulli made a desperate barefoot dash across shattered glass and debris to escape the fiery blast that leveled his apartment Monday.
"I was sitting at my computer desk, listening to ESPN, when all of a sudden I heard an explosion, felt the explosion and fell through the floor," the 19-year-old Stonehill College junior said Tuesday.
Tarulli, clutching a cane and wearing a pair of walking boots, limped heavily as he took his seat at the Stonehill College press conference. Flanked by his parents and college president the Rev. Mark Cregan, he discussed the Monday morning explosion that destroyed his off-campus 39 Jenny Lind St. apartment, injuring three other residents, two gas line workers and several emergency personnel.
"I was the only one on the second floor," said Tarulli, who plays fullback for the Stonehill football team. "All of a sudden, I saw a flash, then the next thing I know, I was just lying there. All I could see was smoke and debris."
Dressed only in gym shorts and a cut-off T-shirt, the student crawled through rubble and ran over nails and glass in bare feet to escape the building collapse.
"I looked around and saw the fire, and my first reaction was to get out as soon as possible," he said. "It all happened so quick, I didn’t have time to think about what was going on."
About a minute after he escaped, a second blast ignited what remained of the two-story rental home.
Easton Police and Fire are collaborating with Bay State Gas, who was working on a gas main in the area at the time of the explosion, to investigate the cause of the incident. A natural gas leak is the suspected cause of the blast.
Choking back tears, Maryann Tarulli described the emotional phone call she got from her son.
"The neighbors had given my son their cell phone," she explained. "He said, ‘Mom, there’s been an explosion, and I’m OK.’"
She called her husband, Bart, and the two made a five-hour drive from their Saddle Brook, N.J., home to be at their son’s bedside at Boston’s Brigham & Women’s Hospital.
"It was so good to see him and put my arms around him," Maryann Tarulli said.
Stonehill Coach Rob Talley brought several football players to the hospital to wait for the ambulance and see their injured teammate. Cregan and the Rev. John Downing, the vice president for admissions, also visited Tarulli and the other three wounded students.
Bart and Maryann Tarulli drove to the scene of the explosion after leaving the hospital.
"I was just in awe of what was left there," he said.
Where a two story home stood mere hours earlier, there was nothing but scattered, smoldering debris.
Tarulli’s injuries consist of scrapes, cuts, bruises and puncture wounds.
"I was bleeding in lots of places," he said.
Since the student lost his car and all his possessions in the explosion, the college stepped in to help.
"Stonehill’s done everything for me," he said. "They had all my books ready for me. They had a laptop for me. They had a $500 gift card to the South Shore mall so I could get some clothes."
Tarulli and the other five students displaced by the off-campus blast have also been offered housing from Stonehill College.
The teen said he’ll go home to New Jersey to recuperate for a couple of days, but plans to be back on campus Friday night to cheer on his football teammates from the sidelines.
"I’m going to get back to school as soon as possible, and the same with football," he said.
The Tarulli family thanked God that no one was killed in the explosion.
"It was just a miracle for me to be here right now," the student said. "It was a very scary situation."
Gerry Tuoti of the Taunton (Mass.) Daily Gazette can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.