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House explodes in Hickory

March 13, 2011

A Mountain View home exploded
after a 42-year-old man allegedly
set off explosions.
(O-N-E photo courtesy Ron Jernigan)

A 42-year-old man caused his home to explode, killing himself Sunday.
Catawba County Sheriff Coy Reid said at about 2:30 p.m. Sunday, George Gergely Jr.'s wife got commitment papers to have her husband checked mentally. Reid said his wife was concerned that her husband was going to harm himself after he made threats to do so. She also referenced a large number of guns were inside the Willowbottom Road home in the Mountain View community.
Reid said the Special Tactics and Response Team responds as protocol to suicide situations.
“The sheriff’s office and the SWAT team were there in a stand-off with him,” said Rebecca Jernigan, a nearby neighbor.
As the STAR team was setting a perimeter around the house, officers saw the man through the windows and heard him moving furniture around the house. It is unknown why he was moving furniture around; however, Reid said he could have been creating a barrier around himself in the home.
About 30 seconds after hearing furniture being moved, responders heard an explosion, followed by eight to 10 gun shots and a second explosion.
Reid said the purpose of the gun shots is not known.
“I saw a couple of the SWAT guys show up, and I walked outside to see what was going on,” said Mike Minter, who lives a few houses away from the residence. “About the time the SWAT team showed up, I had my eyes on the garage door, and every window and the garage door blew out of the house.
“It was awful,” Minter continued. “It took maybe two seconds for the entire house to be engulfed in flames.”
Jernigan described the home as a log cabin, and said the community is served by well water. Fire departments were not present at the scene prior to the explosion, but firefighters from Mountain View, Cooksville and departments from throughout Catawba County responded to the fire. The N.C. State Bureau of Investigation also responded to the scene.
Jernigan said water was drawn from lakes and ponds to battle the blaze.
Reid said the investigation is ongoing, and the man's body has not been recovered at this time. It is unknown if drugs or alcohol were involved in the incident.

Details are still developing in this breaking news story. Check back with www.observernewsonline.com for more information as it becomes available.

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