BATH, Maine — One woman is dead and four others injured following an early morning explosion that destroyed a single-story duplex in the Hyde Park housing development Tuesday.
Investigators were focusing on propane as “the likely cause” of the explosion since both units in the building were heated by propane gas heaters, according to a release Tuesday afternoon from Stephen McCausland, spokesman for the Maine Department of Public Safety.
Sgt. Ken Grimes of the Office of the Maine State Fire Marshal said at the scene Tuesday morning that the body of the victim was recovered in the debris. Early Tuesday afternoon, officials from the state medical examiner’s office removed the remains of the victim, and took them to Augusta for an autopsy and identification, McCausland said.
Kenneth Hooper, who lived next to the deceased woman in the now-demolished duplex, was among four people who sustained related injuries. Hooper had already left for work at the nearby McDonald’s about a half-hour before the explosion, according to McCausland, but returned when he heard about the blast and was overcome when he found it in rubble. He was taken to a nearby hospital and released later Tuesday.
Another man was injured after stepping on nails and glass as he fled his home near the explosion.
The home on Bluff Road “just exploded” around 5 a.m., said Ron Gilbert, who lives directly across the street.
Gilbert said he was sitting in his house when, “I felt the pressure of the blast go right through my body.”
Cinder blocks, bricks and debris from the explosion were found in the parking lot of the Shaw’s Supermarket directly adjacent to the housing development. Shoes and other belongings hung from trees in the yard of the development of World War II-era buildings, originally built for shipbuilders, according to McCausland.
“All I saw was a ball of fire,” neighbor Walter Alexander said. “The house was just disintegrated.”
Of the propane tanks, Alexander said, “Maybe this will force management to [expletive] do something — fix these things or get them out of here.”
Vehicles from the state fire marshal’s office arrived at 7 a.m., and police began evacuating Bluff Road not long after.
Crews from several communities, including Brunswick and West Bath, helped douse the flames. Firefighters remained on scene throughout the day with the investigators from the fire marshal’s office and Maine State Police.