MOORESVILLE, N.C. (AP) — The father of Tennessee Titans cornerback Caleb Farley died overnight in an explosion that destroyed the NFL player's North Carolina home and left another person injured, authorities said Tuesday.
Robert M. Farley, 61, was found dead in the debris of the Mooresville house Tuesday morning, said Kent Greene, director of Iredell County Fire Services and Emergency Management.
First responders arrived at the house a few minutes after midnight Tuesday and found Christian Rogers, 25, exiting the collapsed structure, Greene said. Rogers, described by Greene as a friend of the family, was transported to Atrium Health Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte with a concussion. He is awake and alert, Greene said, but has not yet been discharged.
The cause of the explosion is under investigation, but Greene said gas must have accumulated over a long period and likely found its way to an ignition source. The blast, which local authorities have ruled accidental, originated in a bedroom and did not damage any surrounding homes.
The house is on a large plot of land near Lake Norman, about 28 miles (45 kilometers) north of Charlotte. County property records list the tax value of the home as nearly $2 million.
In the front yard Tuesday, insulation hung from the trees, and a king-size mattress and broken coffee mug saying “Virginia Tech dad” lie on the lawn. Wood debris and window frames were blown at least 50 yards (45 meters) from the blast.
“There could not be anyone in it left alive — that was my first thought," Greene said. "And when I found out someone did walk out of it, I was amazed. This was a 6,300-square-foot home, and there's nothing left but maybe a part of the garage."
Property records list Caleb Farley, who was born and raised in nearby Maiden, as the homeowner. He was not there at the time of the explosion, but was on the scene Tuesday, Greene said.
Titans coach Mike Vrabel told the team about Caleb Farley’s loss during a practice in Nashville, and the players took a knee in an apparent prayer. Vrabel said that the team will do everything possible to support him.
“That’s the most important thing is to focus on him and … everything else is pretty trivial,” Vrabel said after practice.
Caleb Farley, the No. 22 overall pick in the 2021 draft, was placed on injured reserve last November with a back issue. He has played 12 games in his first two seasons and is currently listed as physically unable to perform as the Titans wrap up training camp this week.
In college, the 6-foot-2, 197-pound cornerback was the first high-profile player to opt out of the 2020 season because of the coronavirus pandemic. He lost his mother to cancer in 2018 and was unwilling to put another loved one at risk while playing at Virginia Tech.
Titans safety Kevin Byard lost his own mother in June 2022. He said he told Caleb Farley before he returned to North Carolina to lean hard into his faith.
“I know he lost his mother at a young age as well, so he’s dealt with a lot of adversity as well,” Byard said. “So just very tragic. And, you know, as a team and as a brother, all we can do and all I can do is to try to be there for him."
Laura Wild, who lives two doors down from where the explosion occurred, said she heard a loud boom around midnight but didn’t go outside to check what had happened. She said she was exhausted because she had been up all night the night before watching her son’s newborn baby.
“When it happened I was like, 'What was that?’ My husband said, ‘I think it’s just thunder.’” Wild said. “We didn’t come out to investigate because the power didn’t go out in our house. We walked around the house and the house was fine. We went to bed. But when we came out in the morning... it was pretty bad. Just awful.”
Wild said she didn't know the Farleys well.
Greene said it wasn't yet clear who might be liable for the explosion as multiple agencies probed its cause. The gas meter used to measure the volume of fuel gases flowing into nearby homes has been sequestered and does not pose a present danger to others in the community, he said.
Dominion Energy spokesperson Bonita Billingsley Harris said in an email that the power company was among the first on the scene and was working with investigators.
Walker reported from Nashville, Tenn., and Schoenbaum reported from Raleigh.