BATH, Maine — Neighbors say the 64-year-old Bath woman who died in an explosion early Tuesday morning was “very nice” but didn’t get many visitors at the small brick duplex where she lived.
Dale Ann Fussell, 64, was identified by the state medical examiner’s office as the victim of Tuesday’s dramatic explosion at a home on Bluff Road.
Just after 5 a.m. Tuesday, the single-story duplex in the Hyde Park development “just exploded,” neighbor Ron Gilbert said at the time.
A leak in a propane line caused the explosion, the state fire marshal’s office determined Wednesday.
Walter Alexander, who lives directly across Bluff Road from the fenced-in rubble that was previously Fussell’s home, said he only met her a couple of times, when he and Gilbert shoveled off her porch.
“She was a very nice lady,” Alexander said.
“She loved the Schwan’s truck,” his wife, Gail, said at their home Wednesday afternoon. “They’d bring ice cream and all kinds of food. I think it was because it was company. She didn’t see a lot of company.”
Kimberly Gates knew Fussell through her work with the Bath Food Pantry at the United Church of Christ on Congress Avenue. Fussell was one of the lead cooks for the Tuesday night Neighborhood Cafe at the pantry.
Gates said things were coming together for Fussell in the last few months.
“So many things were happening for this woman, it was incredible,” Gates said. “She had just about enough money to buy a trailer. She was looking forward to moving out within a month or two … I know she died happy.”
The state medical examiner’s office continues to investigate the cause of Fussell’s death.
A gas line connected to an outside propane tank to both units in the duplex exploded, Stephen McCausland, spokesman for the Maine Department of Public Safety, said Wednesday.
Fire investigators, aided by inspectors from Maine’s Fuel Board, determined that the leak was in an outside wall of the house in the Hyde Park development. Fumes likely seeped into a crawl space and were ignited by an unknown source, according to McCausland. The ensuing explosion leveled the duplex early Tuesday morning, and Fussell’s body was found in the rubble of one of the apartments.
Bath Fire Chief Stephen Hinds said Wednesday that his firefighters, along with representatives of Keystone Management and Irving Oil, had spent the previous 24 hours inspecting all units in the complex to check that no other leaks existed.
Most of the units in Hyde Park — 142, including the duplex that exploded — are owned by Eaton “Tony” Tarbell of Auburn and managed by Keystone Management, Tasha Dyer, a representative of Keystone, said at the scene Wednesday.
On Tuesday, Hinds ordered Keystone to check every gas line in the complex for leaks, and Keystone hired Irving Oil to perform the inspections, according to Hinds. Working throughout the night, a representative of each accompanied one of three Bath firefighters to every unit to check for possible leaks.
“There were at least nine Irving trucks lined up out here last night,” Alexander said. “They checked every line, every house. It made me feel better that they weren’t going to brush it under the bed.”
“I just had to err on the side of caution,” Hinds said Wednesday. “They have assured me that they found nothing of consequence, and anything that there was even a question about, they are in the process of fixing.”
Dyer agreed that Tuesday’s investigations found no serious problems with the gas lines. She said the company’s first priority is getting residents displaced by the explosion into new housing. The second priority, she said, is cleaning up the site.
“Then we’ll upgrade the units with [new] heaters,” she said, “but there is currently nothing wrong with them.”
On Wednesday afternoon, a makeshift memorial, initially put together atop the rubble of the building, hung on a chain-link fence that surrounds the scene.
A steady stream of traffic flowed by the narrow road while neighbors walked from doorstep to doorstep, still trying to make sense of the last 36 hours.
Walter Alexander kept his eye on the memorial and plans to do so for a while.
“I’m going to watch out for it,” he said. “People call this [development] the ‘ghetto of Bath,’ but this side of the ghetto, we take care of each other.”