Amanda and Ricky Badger had been living in their Ferry Road home in Milo for just two weeks when it suddenly exploded at about 8 p.m. on Aug. 24, 2018.
The couple had returned that evening from running errands in Bangor knowing that McKusick Petroleum of Dover-Foxcroft had come earlier in the day to install a regulator on a propane tank used to fuel their gas cook stove.
They turned the tank on, checked their stove and sat down on the couch in the living room to watch television.
Twenty minutes later the house exploded.
In the 11 months since, Amanda and Ricky Badger have had to recover from their injuries, put their lives back together and deal with the explosion’s lasting impact. This week, they received a nearly $550,000 settlement to help.
“I remember a really loud bang and a bright light,” Amanda Badger, 38, said Wednesday, recounting the night of the explosion. “I recall the feeling of flying through the air, seeing a ball of fire, but not feeling hot and waking up outside on the ground with something on top of me.”
Ricky Badger Jr., 37, crawled out from under debris and found his wife lying on her stomach on the lawn with pieces of the roof on top of her legs. He carried her away from their home to the road, his wife said.
“The house was not on fire but I could hear smoke alarms going off,” she said. “It was just flat like a pancake. There was dust in the air. There was an electrical wire down and part of the lawn was on fire.”
The only thing left standing was the garage.
Because their cell phones remained somewhere in the flattened house, the Badgers began walking toward a neighbor’s house to call 911. Although the closest neighbor was not home, they were able to flag down a driver and get help.
It was not until she was at Maine Medical Center in Portland receiving treatment for burns on her wrists when she received an important voicemail on her replacement cell phone: Someone from McKusick Petroleum had called to warn the Badgers not to turn on the propane because there was “something going on in the house.”
The $550,000 settlement the Badgers received this week came from McKusick Petroleum, according to the couple’s attorney, Joseph Baldacci of Bangor. Half of the money went to reimburse the couple’s homeowners’ insurance company, he said, and the rest was compensation for their personal injuries and the trauma they suffered.
About half the money was for the loss of their home and its entire contents, he said. The other half was for personal injuries and the traumatic impact the explosion has had on their lives.
McKusick Petroleum declined to comment on the settlement.
“We have worked hard on this case for most of the last year,” Baldacci said. “We are very pleased with the outcome. We are honored to represent this young Maine couple and help them move on from this terrible episode and live their lives more fully.”
The explosion happened because previous homeowners had cut a line that fed propane to a fireplace insert and had not sealed it off, Amanda Badger said. The basement filled with gas when the Badgers turned on the propane. Exactly what sparked the explosion is unclear.
Amanda Badger spent just three days in the hospital, and her husband was treated and released from Mayo Regional Hospital in Dover-Foxcroft the same night. But the explosion has had a lasting impact on the couple and left scars that aren’t visible to people outside their families.
A few weeks before moving in the house last August, the Badger’s dog Jade died at the age of 17.
“Her ashes were in the house and they were gone,” Amanda Badger said. “I was adopted and I’d just recently found my birth family. I had letters from my birth mother in the house that are gone now.”
While the couple lost nearly everything they owned, their cat Ella survived and was found in the garage.
“I bawled my eyes out when I found that out,” Amanda Badger said. “I thought she was either so scared she’d run away or we’d find her body somewhere in the house. For them to find her and for her to be okay, that’s when I lost it.”
The Badgers spent a month with Amanda’s sister in Bangor before they were able to move into a rented house in Milo with rented furniture after receiving an initial payment from their homeowners’ insurance. They quickly returned to work — Amanda Badger at Tradewinds Market in Milo and Ricky Badger Jr. at LaBree’s Bakery in Old Town.
In February, the Badgers bought a new home about 1 ½ miles from the one on Ferry Road. The stove is electric, not gas, Amanda Badger said.
“Our intention is to stay here the rest of our lives,” she said.
The couple plans to invest the money from the settlement and “not buy a bunch of stuff,” but the repercussions from the explosion linger.
“We both still have nightmares and have been diagnosed with PTSD,” she said.
Amanda Badger said that she is glad they hired an attorney pursued a settlement.
“Hopefully this will make things safer with future customers,” she said. “I wouldn’t want this to happen to anyone else.”