Crime

Unsafe conditions prevent investigators from examining South KC home

It will take at least until Friday before federal and local investigators are able to comb through the remains of a south Kansas City residence damaged Wednesday by an explosion that left two persons with critical injuries.

The blast ripped through the house in the 9100 block of Tennessee Avenue. The structure is unsafe for investigators to go inside, said John Ham, a spokesman with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

“There is a portion of the roof that we need to mitigate before it is safe enough for our boys to get in there and start doing a scene investigation,” Ham said. “We need heavy equipment to get in there and do that.”

The heavy rain coupled with strong winds early Thursday also prevented investigators from getting inside. The cause of the blast has not been determined and it is unknown how long it will take crews to complete their investigation, Ham said.

Missouri Gas Energy has determined that natural gas did not cause the explosion, he said.

“Absolutely every possibility is on the table at this point in the investigation,” Ham said. “Until we can get in there and make a determination, any possible cause is on the table until we can get in there and rule it out.”

The residence was fully engulfed in flames when fire crews arrived just around 7 p.m. The natural gas meter was blown several feet away from the house and the blast damaged an adjacent residence to the north, said Battalion Chief James Garrett, a spokesman for the Kansas City Fire Department.

On Thursday, neighbors recalled hearing a large explosion Wednesday evening followed by several small pops from inside the house.

“It shook my house,” said Bryan Lott, one of the first neighbors to arrive at the house. “I ran to the driveway and saw that the explosion had blown half of the house open. I could see clear into the basement.”

Lott said he helped to pull one victim out of the rubble, who was missing limbs and badly burnt. He said saw two women run out of the house with two young children, all whom appeared to be unhurt.

“They must have been upstairs when the explosion happened,” Lott said. “From the looks of it, the explosion had to have happened downstairs, in the basement.”

After the explosion occurred around 6:45 p.m., nearby residents rushed to burning structure instead of calling 911 immediately, Garrett said. The initial 911 call came in at 6:57 p.m., he said.

“We prefer you call 911, that way you will get medical help to those patients as quickly as possible,” Garrett said.

Two of the injured were lying in the driveway when firefighters arrived. Neighbors said they helped them escape from the residence.

It took fire crews about 15 minutes to declare the scene under control.

Ham said he did not know how long before their investigation would be completed.

“We are still, of course, in the early stages and some of it will depended upon weather conditions and whether we can get there and make it safe enough for our experts to get in there and doing the work on the scene,” he said. “As we go the length of the investigation will be dictated by what we find in there.”

To reach Glenn E. Rice, call 816-234-4341 or send email to grice@kcstar.com.

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