A 24-year-old Ramona man killed in a house explosion early Friday morning is described as an expressive, optimistic and uninhibited person who “brought joy to all of those around him.”
Friends and acquaintances of Joseph “Joe” Wayel Nesheiwat wrote about him and to him on posters outside the Stars gas station in Ramona where he worked, and a donation jar on the counter inside the store nearly overflowed with money Tuesday morning.
Funeral services for Nesheiwat were scheduled for 11 a.m. Nov. 5 in Chula Vista.
The explosion that killed Nesheiwat occurred at 16421 N. Woodson Drive at 1:30 a.m. Oct. 31, rocking the neighborhood and the firefighters at Cal Fire’s Mt. Woodson station nearby.
The sheriff’s Bomb/Arson Unit this week continued to investigate the cause of the explosion.
“It hit incredibly hard,” said Tim Neumann, who lives four houses away with his wife and two young children. “It felt like someone had driven through our living room. We just felt this tremendous explosion. It absolutely jolted us out of bed. ... It was like Armageddon.”
Neumann’s wife Christine, sure it was an earthquake, grabbed their children and got them out of the house while Tim put on clothes.
“The neighbor’s house is on fire!” she yelled.
“The entire house was engulfed (in flames),” said Tim, a former firefighter who helped keep the fire from spreading to the house next door, where the eaves were starting to smoke.
“You’re thinking about a secondary explosion,” he said.
Knowing that the family that had rented the house had moved out about two days prior to the explosion, Tim Neumann said he was comforted at first, believing the house was vacant. A sheriff’s deputy found Nesheiwat’s body in the backyard of the burning home.
Firefighters arriving at the scene found the garage door blown off the structure. Aerial shots filmed by Channel 8 television on Friday showed that the two-story, 4,000-square-foot house no longer had a roof.
“We know it was a significant explosion to blow the garage door off the house and onto the street, but what caused that, sheriff’s investigators are looking into that,” said Cal Fire Capt. Nick Schuler.
According to the homeowner, the house was vacant, reported the San Diego County Medical Examiner’s Office, ruling the cause of Nesheiwat’s death as accidental.
Nesheiwat died of second- and third-degree burns and inhalation of products of combustion, the medical examiner’s office reported. Contributing factors were blast injuries to his face and chest, according to the medical examiner.
Jim Kurtenbach, owner of Stars at 1910 Main St., also owns the home where the explosion occurred. As Nesheiwat’s employer for seven years and owner of the house, he said he was unable to comment until the investigation is complete.
The display sign at the corner of Stars reads “Rest in peace our brother Joe.”
Born on Aug. 11, 1984, in Vassar Hospital in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., Nesheiwat is the son of Tagreed and Wayel Nesheiwat and was raised with his four brothers and sister in Poughkeepsie and Ramona, where he graduated Ramona High School in 2002, according to his obituary. He is survived by his mother, Terry Sellers; four brothers, John Paul, Jerry, Joseph, and Johnnie; his fiancee, Rachel Engler, his son, Cayden James Engler Nesheiwat; and cousins, aunts, uncles, and many friends.