LOCAL NEWS

Holladay homeowner apologizes to neighbors for home explosion

Apr 25, 2024, 8:30 PM | Updated: Apr 29, 2024, 1:44 pm

Teri Wojcik, the homeowner of the Holladay home that exploded this week due to old and unstable exp...

Teri Wojcik, the homeowner of the Holladay home that exploded this week due to old and unstable explosives found in the home. (KSL TV)

(KSL TV)

HOLLADAY — The woman who owns the home in Holladay where dynamite was detonated Wednesday morning is apologizing to neighbors for the damage to their homes and disruption to their lives.

“I want to apologize for the inconvenience; I mean, this was definitely not planned. It was just supposed to be the removal of these shelves full of strange-sounding names, and so I’m sorry for whatever damage they’ve had and sorry they had to be evacuated,” said 79-year-old Teri Wojcik.

Wojcik said she returned to the home Thursday that she and her late husband shared for 51 years before he passed in January. What she found was a handful of EPA investigators still removing chemicals that her husband stored on the property.

“I’ve been impressed with the EPA, and the bomb squad and the Holladay (City) help and traffic control,” Wojcik said. “You know, they got the neighbors safely evacuated.”

Homeowner Teri Wojcik.

Homeowner Teri Wojcik. (KSL TV)

She said her husband was a retired chemist from the University of Utah and collected various chemicals at their house for experiments and projects. In final years, he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.

“He was (an) extreme multi-tasker; he had this project and this project, and he would do this and go over to that,” Wojcik said. “He was doing all this fascinating research. It was fascinating.”

Wojcik said she recently discovered a small mercury spill from one of her husband’s projects, which was a homemade thermometer. When she called the health department Tuesday, she said that’s when she realized just how dangerous the situation could become with the other chemicals and dynamite on the property.

“They said if it crystallizes, that can be explosive, so that’s when they called in the bomb squad,” she said.

EPA members going through the remains of Wojcik's home.

EPA members going through the remains of Wojcik’s home. (KSL TV)

While investigating the property Tuesday, Unified Fire Authority found roughly 50 sticks of dynamite in and around the property, appearing to be between 40-80 years old. Wojcik said the explosives were handed down by her husband’s father.

“Apparently, he brought it back from Oregon from his Dad, that came from the farm,” she said. “Back in the day, dynamite was just a normal farm tool, you have a stump, and you toss some dynamite on it.”

The EPA removed most of the dynamite but found 5-6 unstable sticks that couldn’t be moved. They also removed about 300 containers of chemicals from Wojcik’s home, leaving only what was considered unstable.

“We had acid, bases, solvents, a bunch of ethers, which were some of the more concerning chemicals because they become shock sensitive,” said Paul Peronard, the on-scene coordinator for the EPA.

The remains of Wojcik's Holladay home after authorities used a controlled detonation on the home.

The remains of Wojcik’s Holladay home after authorities used a controlled detonation on the home. (KSL TV)

After evacuating neighbors Tuesday night, the unstable dynamite was detonated in the home early Wednesday morning. The home was destroyed, and several neighboring houses sustained damage.

On Thursday, EPA investigators continued their cleanup efforts, removing even more chemicals from a shed next to the destroyed home.

“We left in the shed back here, probably a couple hundred more containers, again, solvents, radioactive material, a few other things we need to police and get off of here,” Peronard said.

Peronard said the home in Holladay is one of the biggest home chemical sites he’s cleared. With the homeowner being a chemist, he believes there was no ill intent and that his Alzheimer’s may have played a factor in how much was being stored.

“I think he sort of lost track of what he had and how much he had,” he said.

Wojcik said she thinks her 79-year-old husband may have forgotten about the dynamite.

“He just kept it, and I think he forgot it was there,” she said.

Peronard said the EPA should be finished clearing the property of any remaining chemicals or hazardous materials by Friday. During that process, the site will be monitored to keep neighbors safe.

Once it’s cleared, he said it will be turned over to Wojcik to work with her insurance company to finish clearing the debris.

 

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Wojcik said she was able to take a few things from the home before it was detonated, but for the most part, lost everything in the explosion. She said what she retrieved from the site Thursday was a variety of papers from some of her favorite woven projects.

“They found all of my project notes, all my things about what I did on each piece was scattered in the buses and across the yard,” she said. “And the yarn survived, balls of yarn just sitting there.”

Wojcik said that at this point, she’s unable to put into words how she feels about losing her home so quickly and the impact it’s had on her neighbors. For now, she’s focusing on the fact that nobody was hurt and giving thanks to how everyone responded.

“They did a good job of containing things, and I’ve been so pleased with that. Next week I’ll have a nervous breakdown, we’ll see, but today I’m please.”

In a city meeting on Thursday night, Holladay city leaders thanked first responders for adapting to the abnormal situation.

“Had we not come across those caches of dynamite … and had it ignited, it would have been a catastrophic event,” said Holladay City Mayor Rob Dable.

“Please know that the overwhelming response that I’m hearing from my people is one of incredible gratitude for the heroic efforts of your teams that protected us and our children and our friends on what could have been a horrific tragedy,” added Holladay City Council member Emily Gray.

Holladay city officials said they are taking inventory of property damage to neighboring homes but they’re directing residents to their homeowner’s insurance first

Wojcik’s daughter started a GoFundMe* campaign if you wish to help Wojcik with expenses.

Contributing: Garna Mejia, KSL TV


*KSL TV does not assure that the money deposited to the account will be applied for the benefit of the persons named as beneficiaries. If you are considering a deposit to the account, you should consult your own advisors and otherwise proceed at your own risk.

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Holladay homeowner apologizes to neighbors for home explosion