It was a scary scene in North Tonawanda over the holiday weekend when a street was shutdown after police found explosive devices in an apartment on Tremont Street.
According to a press release, on July 4, the North Tonawanda Police Department responded to 232 Tremont St., for what appeared to be a structure fire. When questioned, the resident initially told responding officers he had burnt food in his kitchen. Officers were suspicious of what had happened due to the large amount of smoke coming out of the apartment. With some persistence, the resident identified as Daniel Benchik, spoke with officers face to face where it was apparent he required medical attention. Benchik had burns to his hands and face. He was the only person injured as a result of the incident.
Detectives were called in to investigate the scene after several “suspicious items” were found. The Niagara County Drug Task Force officers, along with the Erie County Bomb Squad, Niagara County Hazmat, HSI and ATF, all responded to the scene where multiple explosive devices were located inside of the apartment.
The press release said Benchik was being treated for his injuries and charges are pending until investigation is completed. As of July 8, NTPD said there have been no shareable updates in the case. Benchik is considered innocent unless or until convicted in a court of law.
During Tuesday’s Common Council meeting, Krista Vince Garland, of 238 Tremont St., provided her eyewitness account of the day's events.
“We looked next door, saw some smoke coming out of our neighbor’s window, looked at it for a minute, and saw our neighbor run to the back of the property with a smoke detector kind of bundled up like he was carrying a football. (He) took it to the back of the property and ditched it,” Garland said. “Dennis, my husband, saw him in the front, and asked if everything was OK. He said that he had a cooking fire and that things were all right. (We) went back in, kind of watched this smoke start to go out the chimney and smoke come out the roof vents and smoke come out the basement. And we decided we probably needed to make another phone call, and we did. And then neighbors came out. He came out immediately. First responders took care of our neighbor; he had burns. They took care of them; they paid attention to them and everything seemed pretty typical.”
Soon after, as more and more crews arrived on the scene, her family went out. When they later returned, the street had been blocked off and neighbors were standing outside.
Garland went on to thank first responders and local leaders for their care and diligence in the face of the incident. She also expressed gratitude for community members for the way they came together to look after each other.
"I saw my neighbors in a way I've never seen my neighbors before. I saw my neighbors in volunteer, firefighter equipment. And I saw my neighbors blocking off my street and keeping onlookers safe and helping people to continue to stay calm while (responders) were doing their job,” Garland said.