House obliterated, man killed in huge bomb blast in Cambria County
A damaged garage and vehicles are adjacent to a house explosion in Clearfield Township, Cambria County today.
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Free on bond, Brad Kollar was supposed to appear in a Cambria County courtroom Tuesday morning to be sentenced for running a chop shop and storing chemicals for an underground meth lab on his rural property.
Instead, state police said, he drove his pickup to a Clearfield Township house a few miles away and detonated a massive homemade bomb, blowing himself to pieces, leveling the home and critically injuring its owner, William Shaner, and one of his teenage sons.
State police and federal agents from Pittsburgh and Washington, D.C., were still digging through the debris Wednesday and said they expected to be at the scene for a week, gathering evidence and reconstructing the crime.
But they confirmed that Mr. Kollar, 40, set off the blast in an "intentional act" at the Kepshire Road home where Mr. Shaner lived with his wife and three sons.
Pulled from the rubble, Mr. Shaner was flown to Allegheny General Hospital, where he was being treated Wednesday in the intensive care unit. His son was being treated at Altoona Hospital.
Neither has life-threatening injuries, police said.
Troopers would not discuss a possible motive, but the explosion came just minutes before 9 a.m., when Mr. Kollar was due to be sentenced at the Cambria County Courthouse in nearby Ebensberg on charges related to operating a chop shop with his father, John Kollar, 64, and possession of liquid ammonia in connection with operating a meth lab.
Police and the district attorney, Kelly Callihan, would not address speculation in the community that the bombing was an attempt to retaliate against Mr. Shaner for providing evidence against Mr. Kollar, whose family property in and near the village of Hastings state troopers raided a year ago.
"At this time, we cannot confirm any specific motive or possible retaliation," state Trooper John Matchik said, although he and Ms. Callihan acknowledged that revenge is one possibility. He said the blast is being treated as an "attempted criminal homicide."
During the raid, police found commercial-grade fireworks in a stolen rental trailer and an inactive underground meth lab, as well as stolen heavy construction equipment. Police said the Kollars were running a chop shop on the property and that Brad Kollar was setting up a meth lab.
It's not clear what role, if any, Mr. Shaner played in that investigation.
Ms. Callihan said Mr. Shaner, who is on probation on a theft charge in Blair County, is not listed in court documents in the Kollar case, but she would not say if he was an informant. She said the connection between the families was still being reviewed.
Mr. Kollar had telephoned Mr. Shaner moments before the blast, but authorities are still trying to determine what was said in that conversation.
"We believe it may have been a threat," Trooper Matchik said.
Mr. Kollar pleaded guilty on March 6, 2012, to the chop shop and ammonia possession charges. A judge set his bond at $200,000, but he was released after his father, who is awaiting trial, posted $20,000.
The district attorney's office asked a judge to revoke his bond after prosecutors learned that, sometime in May or June, Mr. Kollar had built a bomb using 1,600 pounds of an explosive fuel containing ammonium nitrate or ammonium sulfate and tried to detonate it in a suicide attempt.
The bomb didn't go off because the fuse or detonation device was faulty. Ms. Callihan said the judge denied the revocation request but ordered a psychiatric exam.
Mr. Kollar was familiar with explosives. Police and Ms. Callihan said he made his own fireworks and sold them illegally, and he had also lost part of his arm in an explosion some years ago. A team of specialists from the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, along with state troopers, has been sifting through the debris to collect evidence to send to the ATF lab.
First Published March 20, 2013 3:10 pm