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One Killed, Several Injured in Yarmouth Propane Blast
06/25/2013   Reported By: Keith Shortall

One person is dead following an explosion that leveled a building at a condominium complex in Yarmouth. State police say the body of 66-year-old Peter Corey was found in the rubble, and several others were injured. As Keith Shortall reports, authorities believe that propane may have been involved.

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One Killed, Several Injured in Yarmouth Propane Bl Listen
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The explosion rocked this quiet suburban neighborhood in Yarmouth at about 6:20 Tuesday morning.

"Upon arrival at the very end left duplex, one section of the building was completely gone, the other section was heavily damanged as well as a number of other buildings in the area," said Sgt. Ken Grimes of the state Fire Marshal's Office.

IMG_1793Grimes says several residents of the complex were treated for minor injuries, and the body of one man - later identified as 66-year-old Peter Corey - was found in the rubble. Grimes says investigators are still looking for a cause of the blast, which was not accompanied by a fire.

"There is propane that supplies these units here on scene," Grimes said. "That is certainly one of the considerations that we'll be looking for."

Grimes and other law enforcement officials spoke to members of the media at the entrance of the condo complex, which had been kept off limits to the public. From a baseball field across the street, a state helicopter took several short passes over the site of the explosion.

Grimes says aerial views of a blast scene can help investigators get a better view of the debris field. "A lot of times when you're standing in the debris field itself you really can't see the outer areas," he said. "So in this particular case we asked forestry to come down with their helicopter, they took us up, we flew the area, we were able to photograph, we were able to get a better idea of how far the blast damange, and how far the debris would have gone."

IMG_1787Grimes estimates that the debris field was spread out as much as 200 yards in all directions. Yarmouth officials say the blast itself knocked neighbors to the ground.

"To give you magnitude of the explosion, our deputy fire chief was walking from his vehicle into his, the explosion occurred and it actually tossed him to the ground," Grimes said.

Michael Robitaille is FIre and Rescue Chief for the town of Yarmouth. "The fire station's approximately 600- or 700-feet away, and we sustained damage to the building there."

Officials say 10 or more other condos were damaged, and wallboard, insulation and other debris was spread around the neighborhood. Reed Thurston, who lives down the street from the complex, says she also felt the blast.

"I thought somebody had run into my house," she says. "My entire house shook. I was shocked. I woke my boyfriend up, I'm like, 'What was that?" He said he thought it was lightening or thunder of some sort, told me not to worry about it, but I couldn't go back to bed. I got on Facebook."

If propane is determined to be the cause, it would be the second fatal explosion in Maine this year. In Feburary, a propane blast destroyed a duplex in Bath, killing one woman. Ken Grimes of the state Fire Marshal's Office says there are years when no incidents involving propane are reported, and other years when there are two, three, or four.

He says it's important to remember, though, that propane is present in thousands of homes in the state of Maine. "And if you have one instance out of thousands of homes, people shouldn't be alarmed that propane is a problem fuel gas to use in their homes," he says. "It's like anything else. We don't know what occurred, but malfunctions of products do occur."

Because of the warm temperatures and high humidity, several first responders were treated for heat-related problems. Yarmouth Fire and Rescue Chief Michael Robitaille says he's surprised that the explosion didn't do even more damage.

"I would say not only suprised, but blessed - we're very lucky today that we didn't have much more destruction and much more injury," Robitaille said. "Six o'clock in the morning, people are sleeping, this is an elderly complex, for the most part. So we are very lucky."

The state Fire Marshal's Office says the investigation could take several days. A structural engineer is inspecting the other units to determine whether it's safe for the occupants to return. The Red cross is helping those displaced by the blast.

Photos:  Keith Shortall

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