AT the foot of Mount Elephant a community is in shock, trying to make sense of the biggest thing that has happened there for many years.
When dozens of police cars swooped on a house on the outskirts of town on Friday evening, the locals knew something bad was happening. But no one could have predicted what transpired during the following hours.
By Saturday morning, the eyes of the nation would be on the little town — but for all the wrong reasons after a huge explosion tore through the modest house, reducing it to rubble instantly, killing its owner, Glenn Sanders, and injuring two police officers, one seriously.
Derrinallum CFA member and service station owner Geoff Henderson said the sound of an enormous explosion “threw him out of bed” just before 1.30am.
“It was very, very loud. People have been saying they heard it across country 20 kilometres away,” Mr Henderson said.
“My son lives behind the (blast) house. He rang me and said ‘the house is on fire and the shed is gone’. Shortly after we were activated as a brigade and called out.”
He described what he saw as “utter devastation”.
“They took us to a certain point and just told us to wait. We were there for about three hours and just waited. They couldn’t let us into the scene for safety reasons,” he said.
Mr Henderson said he was feeling “pretty flat” on Saturday afternoon.
“I’m pretty devastated. I knew him and it’s sad that it came to this.
“It’s just one of those things that you don’t need happening. I think everyone is in a little bit of shock.”
He said it was a shame Derrinallum was getting attention because of such a terrible situation.
Derrinallum Post Office owner Larry Howard said he noticed police near the house on Friday night, but didn’t think anything of it.
He said he slept through the blast, but his wife Margaret heard it.
“I didn’t know anything about it until someone mentioned it while I was out walking,” he said.
“I jumped on the internet when I got home and was quite shocked when I found out what happened. It’s a sad situation.”
Publican Wayne Parkin said Sanders, who lived with his mother before she was hospitalised at Ballarat, had become reclusive after his wife died.
“He’s just a quiet, lonely sort of bloke. Very good with machinery and repairs, maintenance, making stuff, fabrication, that type of thing.
“A bit of a loner over recent years since his wife passed away, but he’s just a general runaround normal bloke.’’
Mr Parkin said Sanders had built a rocket on his property, which he believed was a fabricated model.
“No one in the town really knows what happened up there, to be truthful. I think everybody’s pretty much down a little bit.
“There’s a bit of solemnness and there’s not many people around; everybody’s pretty quiet.’’
with THE AGE