When police and firefighters arrived, all that was left of the Brentwood home was a dust-covered pile of debris. It looked as if a tornado had just struck with a vengeance.
People who live near Prospect Drive were going about their business shortly before noon Tuesday -- making lunch, pumping gas, running errands -- when a deafening explosion rocked the neighborhood.
The blast shook foundations, set off car alarms and sent panicked people running into the streets -- only to be hit with raining debris.
Witnesses saw a police officer run from the rubble, a toddler cradled in her arms.
"I got a baby! I got a baby!" the officer screamed.
"I heard her say, 'We don't have time to wait for an ambulance,' " said Tammye Edwards-Rawls, 46, who lives nearby in Brentwood. "She was running so fast. The baby was like a doll. It had dust all over it."
The officer put the injured baby in a police cruiser, which sped off, but the lifesaving efforts were in vain. The youngster died a short time later at a Bay Shore hospital.
Throughout the area, reactions ranged from shock to horror.
Veronica Orellana, 24, who lives on the block, was in her yard with her three daughters.
"I heard a big boom and I saw pieces of the house flying up in the air," she said.
Manuel Morales, 32, a neighbor, heard screams and sprinted to the scene. He spotted a woman snared in the wreckage. He said, "She was trapped in a bed, yelling 'Help! Help!' "
Moments later, police officers rushed in to free her, Morales said.
Dave Grant, 56, and his son-in-law heard the explosion from down the street and rushed over to aid rescue workers.
"I saw the house leveled," Grant said. "A couple of cops [were] holding the roof up and I dove in. Everybody was bleeding."
Grant said he pulled a man out of the rubble. An emergency technician helped him carry the victim to the street, where ambulances awaited.
After the blast, Michael Arnoth, 24, who lives next door to the flattened house, grabbed his dog and ran outside.
"I was being hit with debris," he said.
Robert Dougherty, 19, was walking nearby on Eastern Avenue toward Brentwood Country Club when he heard a loud bang and felt the ground shake, sending him stumbling sideways.
Dougherty said he quickly dialed 911, but the line was busy.
Alicia Bagano, another neighbor, was helping her mother to the bathroom at the time of the blast. The force of the explosion nearly knocked both women over.
"It was scary. We didn't know what happened," Bagano said. "We thought the world was exploding."
With Kery Murakami