Elk Ridge community provides financial, emotional support to family of teen killed in garage explosion
With 233 donations as of Monday night, nearly $14,000 has been raised for the Cheney family of Elk Ridge, who lost their 19-year-old son in an explosion at their home last Friday.
The son, identified as Eric Ammon Cheney, was outside when the explosion happened inside the family’s garage. When police arrived, he was found to be deceased.
A GoFundMe account was started by Tatum Buckles, a friend of the family, to help cover funeral expenses and repairs to the home.
Sgt. Spencer Cannon of the Utah County Sheriff’s Office said when first responders arrived on scene, they did not know Eric Cheney was in the garage.
“We didn’t know he was home,” Eric’s mother, Julie Cheney, told KSL News Radio. “I don’t even think I’ve processed it.”
Some of the neighbors saw the 19-year-old outside of the garage before the explosion, and through reports from witnesses, the first responders were able to locate Eric Cheney in the garage, Cannon said.
The investigation is ongoing, Cannon said, and the exact cause of the teen’s death and the cause of the explosion are not yet known. “There was a lot of material in the garage that fell on him,” Cannon said of Cheney.
The explosion occurred at 4:15 p.m. and first responders received the call at 4:19 p.m. They arrived on scene within two to three minutes, Cannon said. Some responders were there for more than eight hours collecting evidence and doing investigations. A few area residents brought snacks and drinks to the first responders, Cannon added.
After investigators were finished at the scene, members from the community and the Cheneys’ church ward helped clean up debris on Saturday, KSL News Radio reported.
Julie Cheney told the Daily Herald, “The community has literally performed miracles.”
Jason Cheney posted about his younger brother on Facebook, writing, “When I think about you Eric I think about my best friend, my teammate, my motivation, my snuggle buddy, my little brother, my competition (winky face emoji), my roommate, my example to follow, my hype man, my good hug when I needed it, my wingman, my butt tapping buddy, my cool by association person, my on and on. You are a part of my heart!”
He continued, “It’s gonna be so hard to not see you at every family event, to see your smile, and hear your laugh. Please stay close to me forever! I will miss you and think about you everyday! I never thought I’d have to write these words and it hurts sooo bad! I LOVE YOU ERIC!!!”
Cannon said that while the investigation into the cause of the explosion is not complete and will likely take a long time to conclude, there is no evidence to suggest anything suspicious or criminal. “We do believe it was an accident,” he said.
KSL News Radio reported that when the explosion happened, Julie Cheney and her daughter, Anna, were on the opposite side of the house from Eric.
“We came running out and there was so much damage everywhere. … Stuff was everywhere. Stuff had blown open and fallen down and there was glass, broken things, insulation. It was everywhere,” Julie Cheney told the radio station. “All the doors had blown open.”
No one else was injured, including Eric Cheney’s other five siblings, both parents and surrounding neighbors. Significant damage was caused to the home, including the garage door being destroyed, the Sheetrock being damaged and most everything inside of the garage being damaged or destroyed.
Cannon said he is unsure whether or not the home is structurally safe to currently live in. However, KSL News Radio conducted an interview with the parents of Eric Cheney in their home after the explosion. Cannon said the surrounding homes did not receive extensive damage but there was a lot of damage to the homes from the explosion.
Over the past two days, a Facebook group titled “Remembering Eric Cheney” has amassed 63 members with people people posting pictures and stories, sharing words of love and sending prayers to the teen’s family.