Warren explosion could be linked to natural or man-made gas leak
Warren — Officials are investigating whether a natural or man-made gas leak led to a massive explosion that heavily damaged a Warren condominium complex, displaced a dozen families and claimed the life of one resident on July 4.
The man who died was in his 50s and lived alone in the residence where the explosion occurred, according to Warren Police Commissioner William Dwyer. It was unclear whether the man owned the residence or rented it. His name was not yet being released due to pending notification of relatives, Dwyer said. More information will be released Monday.
The explosion was disturbing and unsettling within the community, Dwyer said.
"We were very fortunate that there was not more deaths and serious injuries," he said.
The explosion occurred late Sunday afternoon, and leveled the deceased man's condominium and sent debris through the Villa Pointe neighborhood near Interstate 696 in Warren.
Monday, stunned residents surveyed the damage from the blast while Warren firefighters sifted through debris.
"I thought a car had run into my house it was so loud," said Jim Higginbottom, who lives two blocks away from the site of the explosion.
Mayor James Fouts said a third of the 12 homes in the condominium complex will have to be leveled, besides the home already leveled. Additionally, numerous homes have damaged garages and windows, including homes in adjoining neighborhoods.
Investigators found the man who was killed in the explosion in a flooded basement, Fouts said.
"They haven't determined whether it was a man-made natural gas explosion or just a natural gas explosion," the mayor said.
A natural gas explosion would be if gas escaped from pipes, while a man-made gas explosion would be if someone turned on a gas oven, let the gas escape and a spark from a refrigerator or other appliance ignited fumes.
Fouts praised the Warren Fire Department for arriving quickly and getting everyone out of their homes. The displaced residents are staying with relatives.
"It's a tough situation," the mayor said. "The explosion may have done some major damage of the structure of the building. People may not have a home anymore. Everyone's home is the most important thing. It's refuge, it's safety and when that is undermined, it has a difficult effect on the psyche of anybody."
Detroit News Staff Photographer David Guralnick contributed.