CORAOPOLIS, Pennsylvania (AP) — A suicidal man got the idea to blow up his house after watching a TV show about the Hindenburg, the German airship that exploded in 1937, police said.
Shawn Landa, 47, is still recovering from his injuries in the Oct. 12 blast that destroyed his Moon Township home, west of Pittsburgh, and damaged several other homes. Allegheny County police charged Landa on Thursday, but online court records don't list an attorney for him and don't make clear when he must appear in court to face charges including arson and causing a catastrophe.
Until Thursday's complaint was filed, investigators hadn't explained how the explosion occurred. According to the complaint, Landa was distraught following a phone call with his estranged wife, and was also upset about losing custody of his children and his shaky employment status following a stint in rehab. Having attempted suicide by cutting his wrists days before, Landa was inspired to blow up his home after watching either a movie or documentary about the Hindenburg, police wrote.
The hydrogen-filled zeppelin exploded on May 6, 1937, as it was being moored in New Jersey, killing 36 people. "This gave him the idea to blow up the house," according to the complaint filed by Detective Jason Costanzo.
Landa told investigators he broke a natural gas line to a basement fireplace, turned on a gas valve, and went upstairs to nap, expecting something in the house would eventually ignite the gas. When that didn't happen, Landa woke up a few hours later and, attempting to light a cigarette, ignited the gas and destroyed his home, police said.
Landa was interviewed by police about two weeks after the explosion, according to the complaint. It wasn't immediately clear if Landa was still being treated in the burn unit at UPMC Mercy hospital or has been released. Online court records show Landa was not in custody, and police didn't immediately return calls on his status.
Police wound up arresting one of Landa's neighbors after finding marijuana plants growing inside in the aftermath of the blast.