AUGUSTA, Maine — A post installed by a Manchester company six days before severed a gas line and caused the leak that spurred the September explosion in Farmington that killed one firefighter, injured others and destroyed a nonprofit’s building.
The finding confirms the account of a daughter of Farmington fire Capt. Michael Bell, who died in the blast while investigating the propane leak at LEAP Inc., after 400 gallons of propane leaked from an outdoor tank. The blast injured seven other people, destroyed nearby homes and scattered debris for more than a mile.
Lawyers representing the Bell family, Michael Bell’s estate and four other injured firefighters and Larry Lord, the LEAP maintenance manager hailed a hero for evacuating the building beforehand still hospitalized in Boston, said they are still seeking the official report on the blast.
Steven Silin of the Lewiston firm of Berman & Simmons, who represents the Lord family, said in a statement the state’s Friday release of details was “by design limited in its breadth” and raised questions about whether a fuel company filled the tank without seeing why it was empty.
In a news release outlining the main finding of the fire marshal’s investigation, Stephen McCausland, a spokesperson for the Maine Department of Public Safety, said six days before the blast, multiple 10-foot posts had been drilled into the ground about 5 feet away from the building in the parking lot to protect an outdoor air conditioning unit next to the building.
A propane line was buried about 3 feet underneath the parking lot and connected the propane tank to the building. While the line was covered in a protective sleeve, McCausland said it was pierced by an auger head that allowed one of the posts to be drilled into the ground.