Pennsylvania man inspired by Hindenburg sentenced to 5 to 10 years in prison for house blast


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PITTSBURGH — A suicidal man who got the idea to blow up his house after watching a TV show about the Hindenburg explosion was sentenced Tuesday to five to 10 years in prison after pleading guilty to more than two dozen charges stemming from the blast.

Shawn Landa, 48, of Moon Township, was sentenced immediately after pleading guilty to arson, criminal mischief and other crimes before an Allegheny County judge.

Landa told investigators he broke a natural gas line to a basement fireplace, turned on a gas valve, and went upstairs to nap, expecting something in the house would eventually ignite the gas. When that didn't happen, Landa, who detectives said attempted suicide days earlier, woke up a few hours later and ignited the gas while lighting a cigarette, destroying his home on Oct. 12, 2013.

The blast damaged nine nearby homes and slightly injured several neighbors, according to the district attorney's office.

Landa was still recovering from burns and other injuries when county detectives charged him last November with arson, risking a catastrophe, reckless endangerment and other crimes. Before that happened, authorities hadn't explained how the explosion occurred.

Detectives determined Landa was distraught following a phone call with his estranged wife, and was also upset about losing custody of his children and his shaky employment status following a stint in rehab. Having attempted suicide by cutting his wrists days before, Landa was inspired to blow up his home after watching either a movie or documentary about the Hindenburg, detectives said.

The hydrogen-filled zeppelin exploded on May 6, 1937, as it was being moored in New Jersey, killing 36 people.

"This gave him the idea to blow up the house," Detective Jason Costanzo wrote in a criminal complaint.

Landa was also sentenced to six years of probation, after his release from prison.

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