Mattoon home explosion traps copper thief

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MATTOON -- A copper theft may have led to a house explosion in Mattoon.

It happened at a vacated rental home in the 1800 block of Essex Ave. Monday night.

When police and firefighters arrived, they found a man inside the home.

Police say the thief likely opened a gas line when stripping copper wire. A lit cigarette then ignited natural gas and caused the explosion.

"I looked across the street and the front of the house was gone," said Bill Hamilton, who lives across the street.

One person was injured. Nearby homes did not sustain any damage.

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