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March 20, 2013

Explosion levels home, believed to be revenge

PATTON, Pa. — A Tuesday morning explosion that leveled a house about three miles south of Patton, Pa., killing one person and injuring two, is thought to be a case of a Hastings area man bent on revenge.

Cambria County Coroner Dennis Kwiatkowski confirmed the deceased as Bradley Gene Kollar, 40, of the 100 block of Harvey Street, Hastings.

Sources said Kollar loaded his sport utility vehicle with explosives and drove to the home of William Shaner at 882 Kepshire Road in Clearfield Township.

Kwiatkowski ruled Kollar’s death a suicide, but did not say how he came to that conclusion.

It is believed Kollar drove his explosive-loaded vehicle into the Shaner home shortly before 9 a.m., causing the massive explosion that left the site looking like a war zone.

At 9 a.m., Kollar was scheduled to be sentenced in Cambria County court on charges that he ran a chop shop and meth lab from his family’s property.

Kollar was a no-show for the sentencing and an arrest warrant was issued. The sentencing was rescheduled for next week.

Kollar’s attorney, Art McQuillan, wasn’t saying much late Tuesday.

“I can confirm he did not appear for sentencing this morning. Other than that I don’t know anything,” the Johnstown attorney said.

Sources told The Tribune-Democrat that Kollar was convinced Shaner had “snitched” on him and his father, John Kollar, 64.

The status of the elder Kollar’s case could not immediately be determined late Tuesday.

The explosion rocked the area, which is located along Route 36 between Patton and Chest Springs.

One woman said she felt it at her home four miles away in the Ashville area.

Others in the Patton area to the north of the site reported feeling some vibration and hearing a loud “bang.”

Luke Lansberry, principal of Central Cambria Elementary School, lives across from the intersection where Route 36 meets Kepshire Road. The principal was at the elementary school until just before 5 p.m. and his wife and children – who were also at school – had not been home when the explosion occurred. Lansberry said he did not know the Shaners well.

The blast initially was reported as a meth lab explosion. State police said the cause of the blast is yet to be determined. However, John Matchik, state police public information officer, said authorities are consulting with experts from the hazardous device and explosives division.

“We activated our major case team, which is a large contingent of criminal investigators,” he said.

“What they’re doing now is going through and making contact with family members and things along those lines.”

A ballistics team was at the scene much of Tuesday, according to Matchik, and Patton Volunteer Fire Company used bucket trucks to give investigators an aerial view of the scene. Before that, a helicopter circled above the blasted plot.

Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms agents arrived shortly before 5 p.m. and began sifting through the mounds of rubble. The FBI also is involved, according to Matchik.

Cambria County District Attorney Kelly Callihan, who went to the scene immediately following the explosion, referred questions to state police.

Two victims transported to the Altoona Regional Health System – one male adult and one male teenager – were not identified and the extent of their injuries was not immediately known.

“Right now, we’re still trying to verify the locations of each of our victims whenever the blast actually occurred,” Matchik said.

Neighbors of the Shaners said the family had three children and two are believed to have just been picked up by their bus headed to class in the Cambria Heights School District. Classes were delayed by two hours due to winter road conditions.

The site of the explosion is directly across from the Clearfield Township Municipal Building, which apparently was not impacted.

State police cruisers sat at the entrance to Kepshire Road keeping the curious and the reporters away from the scene, which was about 150 yards from Route 36. Unmarked police vehicles maintained a perimeter near the Route 36 and Kepshire intersection to keep people from crossing through adjacent fields.

A computer rending of the area prior to the explosion shows a house and two buildings, including a garage and a swimming pool. An aerial view after the blast shows a garage and a badly burned vehicle just off Kepshire Road and in the area where the house had been.

“We are treating this as a criminal investigation at this point,” Matchik said. “We want to make sure we conduct this investigation very methodically.”

Hours after the blast, debris such as building materials and paper was spotted hundreds of yards from the scene.

Tufts of fiberglass insulation, carried by Tuesday’s strong winds, dotted the neighboring fields and homeowners’ yards in all directions.

Matchik said Kepshire Road could continue to be closed today, although that was speculative, given the current state of the investigation.

Bradley Kollar and his father were taken into custody March 6, 2012, after a massive raid on a family-owned 47-acre property – the former Rich Mines site – located in Susquehanna and Elder townships.

Stolen equipment, including a front-end loader, was recovered.

Also found were what police described as materials possibly used in a meth lab and some explosive materials.

Court records list John Kollar’s address as Murphy Springs Road in Susquehanna Township.

Both men posted bail and were out of prison at the time.

Bradley Kollar’s mental status apparently had been a concern for authorities for some time.

Court records show that the district attorney’s office, after receiving reports that he was contemplating suicide and may have access to explosives, attempted unsuccessfully to have his bail revoked.

Details provided by The Johnstown, PA, Tribune Democrat.

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