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SALEM -- The day after a massive explosion leveled a building on state Route 29 and left five people dead and six others injured, Lawrence Berg wondered about what might have been.

"I talked to my son at 11:26 yesterday. I told him around 12:30 we would go there and pick up everybody to go swimming in Fort Ann," recalled Berg, who lives in Greenwich.

Berg anticipated a good number of the people at the home in Salem would pile into a couple of cars to head off for an afternoon of swimming.

The explosion occurred at 12:11 p.m. on Wednesday.

"If we left an hour before ... if we left just a little earlier, maybe they wouldn't have been there," said Berg, his voice thick with sadness.

On Wednesday, the incident claimed the lives of 19-year-old Lawrence Berg Jr.; Tammy Palmer, 41; Clarissa Lyn Porlier, 19; and Robert Sanford, 16, according to State Police.

On Thursday, 2-month-old Niyah Lynn Durham succumbed to injuries sustained in the blast.

Police said all of the deceased except Porlier lived in the home. Porlier, the girlfriend of Lawrence Berg Jr., was visiting the residence at the time of the explosion. She was headed back to culinary school later Wednesday.

"Clarissa was a good-hearted girl and ‘Buddy' was well liked by everybody. His name is Larry, but everybody called him Buddy," Berg said of his son, who loved playing his Xbox games and planned on attending college in the fall.

Tammy Palmer, 41, was the elder Berg's ex-wife.

"Tammy was a good-hearted lady who would do anything for anybody," he said.

Palmer's boyfriend, 32-year-old Steven McComsey, was transported to the hospital for treatment for his injuries. The man's nephew, 16-year-old Robert Sanford, was killed as a result the explosion.

In addition to McComsey, the injured transported to the hospital included: Chelsey Wilcox, 15, and Daniel H. Wilcox, 43, who were both visiting the home at the time of the incident at the time of the mishap, and residents Darrell Durham, 20, Brianna Berg, 17, and Alicia Berg, 21.

"Brianna is home with me. My daughter, Alicia, I'm worried about. It's pretty serious," Lawrence Berg said.

"Alicia underwent a number of surgeries Wednesday evening because of the amount of injuries. They plan on doing the second round of surgeries on Friday," said attorney Dan Dagostino, who was retained by Berg to represent his children and the estate.

Investigators continued to sift through debris at the scene on Thursday.

"It's pretty much in line with a gas explosion," said Stephen Wilbur, Washington County fire investigator.

Wilbur said investigators are analyzing debris as each piece is removed in an attempt to identify the origin of the blast. Propane - and not natural gas - was used at the home, he said.

On Wednesday, Linda Baldwin, the wife of the building's owner, David Baldwin, said one of the residents called shortly before noon, looking for her husband to report the smell of gas in the house. She said she called her husband and that he was on his way to the house when it exploded.

"We're investigating all angles," said State Police Lt. John Agresta, adding that 15 to 20 people had been interviewed by police Thursday afternoon and that a cause of the explosion has yet to be determined.

"Everything is hearsay at this point," he said.

"Thirty years in fire service, I've never seen anything like this," said Salem Fire Chief Bob Graham. "Only on TV."

Fire companies from more than a half-dozen communities responded to the call on Wednesday. Eleven people were in or outside the home when the explosion occurred that leveled the home, shattered windows and buckled garage doors of nearby homes and shook buildings nearly a half-mile away.


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