Explosion At Lancaster County Hotel Claims One Life (Bird-In-Hand)

I’m visiting Lancaster County and the big news since yesterday is the explosion at a Lancaster County hotel popular with tourists to the area. The incident happened in the wee hours yesterday morning in Bird-in-Hand. From PennLive:

A loud “boom” early Monday morning in Lancaster County startled Tom Dobbs, nearly knocking him out of bed.

The Leacock Township resident lives near the Bird-in-Hand Family Inn at 2740 Old Philadelphia Pike, severely damaged in a massive explosion that killed one person. Dobbs said it took him a few minutes to figure out what happened.

“My wife happened to look out the other window, and there was big giant ball of fire,” he said, adding it looked like a plane crash. “It was unbelievable.”

On Monday, Police said a preliminary investigation revealed the 2:36 a.m. explosion in the inn’s front office likely was caused by a propane tank. Police said the investigation is ongoing. The identity of the deceased person has not been released, although the inn’s owner John Smucker confirmed to Lancaster Online on Monday it was an employee.

The loss of life is tragic. But one stroke of luck likely prevented it from being greater: the Inn is typically closed the week before Christmas for maintenance.

I drove by the scene just a few minutes ago and observed the damage. It does appear to have been a massive blast and you can see piles of debris and rubble. The Inn’s owner has estimated damage to be in the $1 to 2 million range, and I can believe it.

This struck home in a couple of ways. For one, I’ve been in the next-door restaurant, the Bird-in-Hand Family Smorgasbord, more than once. Perhaps some of you have as well. The last time was a year ago when I went with some Amish friends. The place is always packed when I’m there. Right now, the entire parking lot for both the Smorgasbord and the Inn are closed off with security tape. The restaurant itself apparently also sustained some damage.

Two, the belief that the explosion was caused by a propane tank. While this was not an Amish-run business, propane is a common type of lighting in Amish homes. Liquid propane also powers Amish-owned refrigerators. When I do a post or video and the topic touches on propane, there are more often than not comments or questions about safety. While propane tanks are equipped with safety features, seeing an accident like this brings that reality home.

This location is in the “heart” of Bird-in-Hand and both the restaurant and lodging are well-known to visitors and locals alike. What will happen next? The report I linked above ends with an optimistic view:

The inn’s owner hasn’t announced formal plans to rebuild the inn, but Dobbs said he suspects it won’t take long to rebuild, given the close-knit community.

“Everyone is going to work together, and this will be fixed and built, and people will move on,” he said. “They just come together like an Amish barn raising, except it’s going to be an Amish hotel raising.”

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    1. Fran Grimes

      I was so sorry to read this about the explosion. Thankfully it was closed but one person was killed. This time of year to have such a loss is extremely hard on their family. Prayers for all. God bless.

    2. Liz Bourgeois


      Oh my stomach just fell when I read this story. I was at that restaurant about 4 years ago and in my mind I can picture it. What a tragedy for the family of the deceased person at this time of year. Future Christmases will be changed from this day forward. Praying for that family and the hotel owner, I’m sure he is devastated as well.