San Francisco family loses home after neighbor's house explodes

A family from San Francisco may have lost their lives if they were home when a neighbor’s house exploded more than a week ago.

Investigators said the blast on 22nd Avenue was caused by a drug manufacturing operation, that resulted in nearby homes suffering severe damage.

"It’s all gone. Everything burned down," said Nang Phommavongsay. "You can barely see anything."

She wiped away tears Friday knowing that the Sunset District home where she lived with her husband, David Garth, for eight years was wiped away in an instant.

Garth was typically home in the mornings but had gone to Oakland for work early on Feb. 9. Phommavongsay went with their 6-year-old daughter, Vanessa, to Learning Bridge Preschool, where she works as a teacher.

Within 30 minutes of them leaving they say the explosion happened.

"My first thought was ‘thank goodness we’re alive and there was no one inside,’" Garth said. "Normally I would have been in there at that time."

Their neighbor, Darren Price, is now facing several criminal charges including involuntary manslaughter and manufacturing a controlled substance. His wife, Rita, was killed, and a caregiver was severely hurt.

A judge ruled Friday that Price could be released under home detention with an ankle monitor, among other restrictions.

"I’m sure he didn’t intend to harm anybody. He just made some very bad decisions." Garth said. "People are suffering the consequences."

Garth recalls getting a frantic phone call from his wife, initially not knowing that there was even an explosion on their street.

"He’s saying, ‘What are you talking about? I don’t understand.’ And I said, ‘It’s our house. It’s burning! Call somebody…it’s our house.’"

Phommavongsay said she had rushed home from the preschool to see the damage on her block after getting messages from a neighbor. She said she was unaware their home had caught fire and was destroyed.

SEE ALSO: Darron Price, San Francisco home explosion suspect, granted bail

Most of their belongings are no more and the house has since been red-tagged for safety reasons.

Vanessa, who has only called the place home had one wish -- to find her most prized possession. It is a teddy bear she has had since she was a baby.

"Actually, we were able to recover the teddy bear," Garth said. "He smells like ash, but he’s in one piece."

For now, the family is staying at a friend’s house, unsure where they’ll live in the future.

They’re leaning on the community to help them replace what was lost. Parents of children who had Phommavongsay as a teacher set up a fundraiser on GoFundMe.

"At least I work with kids. Kids are cheering me up," Phommavongsay said. "They are good therapy for me."

Brooks Jarosz is an investigative reporter for KTVU. Email him at and follow him on Facebook and Twitter @BrooksKTVU