February 14, 2013

Bath explosion claims a generous soul

Dale Fussell, a soup kitchen volunteer killed at her apartment Tuesday, had been saving to buy her own home.

By David Hench dhench@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 1)

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A memorial to Dale Fussell covers a fence at 29 Bluff Road in Bath. Officials believe a loose pipe coupling at the building allowed propane gas to escape, leading to an explosion.

Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

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Dale Fussell

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And she was fun.

"I'd bring in Motown CDs and a CD player," Silva said. "In the middle of cutting vegetables, we would just start dancing. It was the funniest thing."

Silva heard about the explosion as she drove to Fussell's home to give her a ride to The Neighborhood Cafe. She couldn't get through because of the firetrucks and police cars.

"I just kept thinking to myself, 'Please don't let it be near her, and if it is near her, don't let her be hurt,"' Silva said.

When Fussell didn't show up to volunteer and didn't answer her telephone, Silva got worried. Then she learned that it was Fussell's home that had exploded.

Silva said that Fussell, who was disabled, had been feeling good about herself. She had saved money and last year she bought a bright red compact car that made her very proud. The car appeared to sustain little damage in the blast, even though others nearby were destroyed.

Fussell also was saving to buy her own home.

"She said she was almost there," Silva said. "That's why it was so sad this happened. She was so close to getting her own place."

Kenneth Hooper, who lived next to Fussell at 31 Bluff Road, left home for work at the nearby McDonald's restaurant a half-hour before the explosion.

The managers of the Atlantic Townhouse Apartments said Wednesday that they had not heard from him and it was unclear where he was staying. A manager at McDonald's said Hooper did not want to speak to reporters.

The propane heating system for the Atlantic Townhouse Apartments was installed in 2000, when Keystone Management Co. took over management of the 144 units owned by Eaton Tarbell LLC.

Technicians from the management company and Irving Oil, which supplies the complex's propane, worked through the night Tuesday, checking the gas supplies to all of the other apartments for leaks, said state officials and the management company.

Chris Smith said firefighters visited his apartment to make sure his heater was working properly. That gave him some peace of mind, though like many residents, he has new skepticism about propane.

Tasha Dyer, who works for Keystone Management, said the company plans to replace the connectors between the supply pipes and the heaters in all of the units. "This will never happen again," she said.

Lisa King, who lives two buildings away from the one that exploded, said she had trouble sleeping Tuesday night and is nervous about the propane.

She said she prefers to use her electric fireplace to heat her two-story unit and it doesn't add significantly to her electricity bill.

But at night, she relies on a propane heater, a Rinnai Energy Saver 1004F.

The buildings on either side of the blast site remained vacant Wednesday. Crews planned to repair one, where glass was blown into the kitchen. The building to the south sustained structural damage and may have to be rebuilt.

Keystone Management had received 42 calls complaining of no heat since the blizzard, said Brad Clement, a maintenance contractor for the company. Drifting snow had blocked exhaust vents, he said, causing the units to shut down.

Investigators do not believe that had anything to do with the explosion.

Services for Fussell will be held at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday at The Neighborhood Cafe on Congress Avenue.

The Desmond Funeral Home is collecting donations to help defray funeral expenses. Donations may be made to: Dale Fussell Funeral Fund, care of Desmond Funeral Home, 638 High St., Bath, ME 04530.

David Hench can be contacted at 791-6327 or at:


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Additional Photos

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The scene following Tuesday's explosion at 29-31 Bluff Road in Bath.

Photo by David Hench / Staff Writer

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A child's card was tucked under the windshield wiper of a car parked in front of Dale Ann Fussell's apartment on Wednesday.

David Hench / Staff Writer


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