Aunt of children injured in Sullivan County house explosion shares painful ordeal

The victims have been identified as Robert McDowell, along with Jessie and Savanah Mackerley, who are just 5 and 9 years old.

Blaise Gomez

Oct 2, 2023, 4:33 PM

Updated 295 days ago


Three victims who were critically injured in what police say was a devastating propane explosion this weekend remain in critical condition at Westchester Medical Center. 
Nine-year-old Savannah and 5-year-old Jessie Mackerley were inside the house at 14 James Place in Kiamesha Lake with their mother’s boyfriend on Saturday. 
“Savannah was found clear in the back,” says their aunt, Katherine Kolstad. “Jesse was found in a hole with debris on top of him.” 
Kolstad says her sister's boyfriend, 36-year-old Robert McDowell, helped rescue the children from the rubble – despite his own serious injuries. 
“They said from the impact, their clothes blew off,” Kolstad says. “He said he smelled a little smell, didn’t think anything of it and then all of a sudden, the house blew up.” 
Kolstad says all three have burns, broken bones and other serious injuries. 
The blast was heard and felt by neighbors, many of whom have damage to their own homes and scattered debris like confetti strewn around the block and in trees. Town officials say two homes nearby had to be demolished, and families in four others can’t go back until engineers can get in. 
Kolstad says the family just moved into the neighborhood with Aug. 30. News 12 saw a little girl looking at the rubble with her mother who often played with the children. 
Kolstad says the kids just started school in Monticello as fourth and first graders.
“These kids have been through hell and back and it’s not fair to either one of them,” Kolstad says. 
PHOTO COURTESY - Katharine Kolstad

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