Car crashes into home, sparks fire

HOUSTON - A driver plowed his car into a northeast Houston home Thursday, sparking a fire that destroyed a house, officials said.

Investigators said Cleveland Johnson, 46, lost control of his vehicle, drove through a row of bushes and slammed into a home on Crane Street at Kashmere shortly after 1 a.m. He also hit a gas line, which sparked an explosion and house fire.

Henry Butler was about to go to sleep when the crash and explosion occurred.

"I just heard an explosion and saw the fire. I thought something was on fire, so I grabbed a pitcher of water and the water was just blowing in. It just exploded. They couldn't even find the gas meter -- the gas company. It caused it to melt," Butler said.

"Once there was an explosion, the house ignited. We put the house out but we couldn't put the meter out until we had crews in place to put the gas out," said Mike Phillips with the Houston Fire Department.

Butler's 102-year-old aunt was asleep in the home.

"I got out of the bed, the handicapped bed, and picked her up and pulled her outside and my brother helped me take her to my sister's house," Butler said.

"I didn't get no scratches on me because my nephew carried me the best that he could," Audrey Demartra said.

Johnson ran from the scene and fled to his apartment next door, police said. He was later found hiding under his bed in his underwear, according to witnesses. Johnson suffered third-degree burns and was taken to Memorial Hermann Hospital.

Investigators said they believe Johnson was intoxicated. A charge of failure to stop and give information, a misdemeanor, is pending.

Court records show Johnson was arrested and convicted in the '80s at least twice for driving while intoxicated.

The home was destroyed.

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