Berne, NY  — A couple who were well-known and beloved in this rural community were killed following a massive explosion that leveled their home Friday night.

Albany County Sheriff Craig Apple confirmed late Saturday morning that Victor and Lois Porlier, ages 83 and 72, respectively, died in the powerful  blast that was felt miles away and has cast a pall over the Hilltowns as fire and sheriff’s investigators search for answers.

“It’s going to be a very lengthy search because we have 3 1/2 stories of house in the basement,” he said, adding that the debris field “in diameter is probably 12o yards out. “We have a very lengthy and methodical search ahead of us; we have to search that debris field as well as the contents of the basement.”

Lois Porlier was discovered in the bed while the impact of the explosion, which occurred at 8:20 p.m. Friday, resulted in Victor Porlier being hurtled several yards away outside the dwelling, Apple said. His body was found Friday night.

“Explosion shows signs of propane explosion but also there are several other pieces to factor in,” Apple said earlier Saturday morning.

Located in a secluded location off Thacher Park Road, the home was already engulfed in flames when first responders arrived at the scene after a neighbor called authorities to report the explosion followed by heavy smoke, the sheriff’s office stated. The state park was closed after the blast.

Berne is a town of roughly about 2, 771 people that is about 20 miles outside the city of Albany.

Multiple fire departments and EMS personnel arrived at the scene, with many working overnight to extinguish the fire, the sheriff’s office said.

Online listings describe the home as a three-story, 5,600-square-foot structure sitting on 16 acres of land. Apple said the couple had been seeking to sell the property.

Kyle Fossé, who lives about five miles from the explosion site, said he and his wife were inside their East Berne home when they felt a “thud, like a bookshelf falling” and their “dogs went crazy.” They went outside to see if a tree had fallen and were met by neighbors who also felt the disturbance.

Berne Supervisor Sean Lyons said Saturday morning that the explosion reverberated through the area.

“The explosion rocked the whole community – there’s not a corner of the town of Berne that somebody didn’t report hearing it last night,” said Lyons.

The supervisor, who is out of town, said not long after the explosion, he received a call from the Highway Superintendent alerting him about what just happened.

He said that the town’s code enforcement office and building inspector were on scene Friday night.

“I think for many in the community, people are waking up this morning in shock,” he said. “One of the biggest takeaways now is people are very nervous about how this happened, and what do they do to protect themselves now.  Is this a random event that just happened? So people are very concerned about the root cause and how that will affect them and their homes.”

Neighbor Helen Lounsbury Galicki who said she lives on Saw Mill Road less than a mile from the Porliers, said Saturday afternoon that “her whole house shook” following the explosion.

She’s “dumbfounded” something like this happened to such good humble people.

“They were both very brilliant people,” she said of the Porliers. “We found them to be very good company, they weren’t braggarts, and this information I’m sharing with you was learned over a period of time.”

Lounsbury Galicki, a retired school teacher who also served on the Berne-Knox-Westerlo school board, said  Victor Porlier worked in campaign management and decades ago helped out with the campaign of late president Ronald Reagan.

“I found it interesting, one of the things about Victor is that he went to the (University of California) Berkeley, he was very liberal at one point and then he became extremely conservative, so there was a major change in his stance,” said Lounsbury Galicki.

She said Porlier traveled a lot for one of his jobs “and I think his viewpoint of the world started to change.”

The husband and wife grew their own vegetables because of Lois Porlier’s strict organic diet and she spoke several languages, said Lounsbury Galicki.

She recalled how her cousin from Dublin, Ireland, himself multi-lingual, marveled after meeting and speaking with Lois that her Irish “accent was perfect.”

The couple’s sprawling property provided them with an “uninterrupted and breathtaking view” of the Heldeberg mountains, their neighbor said.

Still, they had recently sold off a lot of their possessions through an auction and were making plans to sell the home and relocate down South to be closer to Victor Porlier’s son, Lounsbury Galicki said.

She and Randy Bashwinger, Berne’s Highway Superintendent, said the house also featured a spectacular library with thousands of books, which is also mentioned in an online real estate listing for the place. She said Victor Porlier was also “extremely well versed in technology” and wrote books about the Y2K phenomenon.

The real estate listing indicates the 3-bedroom 2.5 bath residential structure “situated between lakes and parks” is 1,440 feet above sea level with rock walls, solar panels and a private pond with “over 15 acres with panoramic views to the south and north.”

Some of the other amenities listed included a mahogany custom staircase with vaulted ceilings and skylights, 54 raised and insulated garden beds, 5 outbuildings, including 2 Amish barns, a 2-story horse barn and solar panes with battery backup, and geothermal heating and cooling with Air Knight purification.

Lounsbury Galicki said Victor Porlier preferred solar panels and had reservations about propane tanks.

“I know that Victor never liked propane, he said he would never have it, but maybe he had to have a tank for something, ” she said, adding the couple were “environmentally friendly.”

Lyons said the use of propane tanks is a part of everyday normal life in Albany County’s Heldeberg Hilltowns.

“Many of us in the Hilltowns, including myself, we have large supplies of propane tanks at our homes because of delivery so it will be a concern for many people now, making sure that it’s always off and there’s no leaks…” he said.

Asked about the Porliers, Lyons described Victor Porlier as “a genius and a very smart man,” and said the couple were good friends with a number of people who work for the town.

Lyons, a lifelong Berne resident who has served as supervisor for about 4 years,  said he can’t recall a tragedy of this magnitude occurring in town.

Bashwinger, who is also on the Berne-Knox-Westerlo school board, said Victor Porlier was a regular at meetings.

“He was very dedicated to going to meetings, and he just loved education for young kids,” said Bashwinger, also the Albany County Republican chairman.

He said Victor Porlier was his wife’s caretaker because of her health problems.

Apple remarked on the degree of devastation.

“I’ve been doing this a long time, we’ve had a couple of house explosions, but never anything to this magnitude, ” he said.

East Berne Fire Department, Berne Fire Department, Altamont Fire Department, Westerlo Fire Department, New Salem Fire Department, Onesquethaw Fire Department, Helderberg Ambulance, Albany County Sheriff’s Office EMS division all responded to the incident. New York State Police also assisted in the investigation.