Image source: Seattle Times
Early Tuesday morning, an explosion rocked Soholt Lane SE in Port Orchard, Washington. One home was completely leveled by the force of the blast, which was so powerful that residents of Naval Base Kitsap in Bremerton reported feeling it, and so many people called 911 to report the explosion that a local emergency response center experienced a busy signal. Nearby Mullenix Ridge Elementary School was damaged by the force of the explosion, but classes were expected to continue after a safety inspection of the building.
Investigators believe that William and Maria McDonald, the owners of the home that exploded, were both killed in the blast. The couple were beloved members of their community, and neighbors have described trying and failing to reach the trapped couple after the explosion. One of Maria’s coworkers told reporters, “She made everyone’s day. She was just that awesome person to be around that just made everything that much brighter.” Their funeral mass will be held in Port Orchard on March 5th.
Cause of the explosion may take time to determine
Investigators believe they have mostly ruled out homicide as the cause of the blast, but they are still looking into why such a powerful explosion happened. Explosion analysis takes time, especially after an event of this magnitude; highly trained experts need to comb through the remains left after an explosion while preventing contamination of the scene and making sure that the site is safe. Investigators will have to divide the massive scene into grids and comb over each in detail, looking for what fueled the explosion and what the ignition source might have been.
Once the source of an explosion has been determined, investigators then have to figure out why it happened and how future tragedies could be prevented: was a gas line poorly installed or maintained? Were the property owners storing combustible materials incorrectly? Could a water heater or furnace become over-pressured due to a defect or lack of maintenance?
Just because investigators believe that an explosion was not deliberately set does not mean that the homeowners are necessarily at fault. They may have been the victims of a faulty device or an incorrect repair job; there may have been issues with the gas lines that served their home. Complexities like these are why personal injury attorneys spend so much time investigating and collecting evidence in wrongful death cases.