Two people died. Two homes were leveled. Dozens more were damaged.
“The amount of damage in the photographs I’ve viewed on line puts it right at the border line (between low and high order explosion),” said Rich Meier of Kennedy & Associates. “This was a very significant explosion.”
And despite its powerful force that some witnesses described like, “a bomb going off,” Meier said some items of Moncy Shirley’s house at 8349 Fieldfare Way will survive intact for investigators to look at.
“I did look at the picture and I did see large segments of the wall laying in various locations. Now a good investigator will be able to look at that and say, ‘This is the kitchen wall and it was here, now it ended up here,’ and draw a line and say, ‘the explosion moved in this direction.’”
Once the room where the explosion started is determined, Meier said investigators will find the origin point.
“In some cases you can determine if the appliance was involved in the explosion…say if it was the ignition source by the damage done.”
Meier said even in a catastrophic explosion, items at the point of origin will retain their original shape.
“If you have gas migrating into a refrigerator and a contactor closes, sparking an explosion, the refrigerator will be, for lack of a better scientific term, ‘pooched out.’ It will be expanded from the inside out and deforming the sheet metal.”
Meier said for a house to explode with the violence the Shirley home did that Saturday night, approximately 10% of the internal air mixture would be natural gas.
“I would say there were several rooms involved in the explosion,” Meier said, indicating the source of the fuel was separate from the room where the ignition occurred. “You’re probably talking somewhere in the order of 500 to 1000 to 2000 cubic feet of gas involved.”
Meier said that the introduction of so much gas into the home would likely not be due to accidental means.
“Can an open gas line put enough gas into the house over a six to nine hour period to cause an explosion?” asked Meier. “My answer is yes.”
Which leaves investigators to determine what type of device or appliance could spark such an explosion in a gas-filled empty home.
“There are some things that can be set on timers,” said Meier. “Timers for lights, timers for stoves. Depends on how many appliances you have in your house depends on how many ignition sources you have.”
Meier said the vast majority of cases his firm investigates were as the result of accidental or unintentional causes.
He estimated that 7 percent of the investigations find a criminal intentional cause.