June 26, 2013

Explosion rocks Yarmouth, leaves one dead

An apparent propane blast that could be felt for miles kills one man, damages homes and showers debris on a stunned neighborhood.

By David Hench dhench@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

and J. Craig Anderson canderson@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

and Matt Byrne mbyrne@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 1)

Martin said he thought that any leaking gas must have been inside the condominium.

He said stoves, water heaters and, in some units, fireplaces use propane. He was not sure if the units where the explosion occurred had fireplaces. Yarmouth does not have natural gas service.

Propane is heavier than air, so a leak can cause a dangerous accumulation in low spots in enclosed spaces. In February, a propane explosion in an apartment in Bath killed a 64-year-old woman.

After the blast Tuesday morning, firefighters and police took residents to the North Road fire station, about 700 feet away. Windows in the station were knocked out by the blast's shock wave. Deputy Fire Chief Rick Kindlen, who was in the station, was knocked off his feet, said Fire Chief Michael Robitaille.

Joan Houghton said she might not be able to check on her home or gather belongings for weeks. She said she will stay with family members and friends for the six months it could take to rebuild her home.

She said she was still in bed when the unit next door exploded.

"My bed went up in the air," she said. "I couldn't even walk in the kitchen" because chunks of the ceiling had fallen onto the floor.

When she saw her husband come through the door uninjured, she felt blessed.

"I thank God, he was so good to us," she said. "It just makes you realize what those people with the tornadoes went through.

"Those are just things," she said, gesturing to her severely damaged home.

A structural engineer has been hired to check each of the buildings to determine which ones are safe for residents to enter to gather belongings, said Morrill, the police chief.

Anita Anderson, who lives on Balsam Lane, behind the North Gables condo unit that exploded, said her husband was outside getting the newspaper when the deafening blast shook their house.

"It was like a bomb went off," she said. "The whole front of the house, all the windows, were blown out. All the mirrors in the bathrooms flew into the hallways."

Anderson said she spent the morning cleaning up broken glasses, dishes, picture frames and window panes while her husband went to the doctor to get tested for possible hearing loss. Neither one was seriously injured.

An emergency cleanup crew boarded up the windows and assessed the home's structural damage, including walls that separated from ceilings, door frames that buckled and warped, and a crumpled garage door.

"The cabinets all opened up because the house shook so bad," Anderson said. "I've never experienced anything like this."

Charlotte Agell said her parents live in the unit across the cul-de-sac from the one that exploded. They were uninjured but in shock and had been taken to the North Road fire station.

She said her mother was in bed when the explosion happened, damaging their unit.

"A painting fell on her head, but she is OK," said Agell, who was taking care of her parents' springer spaniel, Hugo.

Tuesday was a town election day for Yarmouth residents, who went to the polls to vote on Town Council and school board members, the town budget and a library improvement bond. Because the town's usual polling place is close to the location of the explosion, voting was moved to Town Hall.

"Everybody is stunned," said Steve Woods, chairman of the Town Council, who surveyed the damage and talked to neighbors. "This is something that will take a while for Yarmouth to move on from."

Staff Writer Tux Turkel contributed to this report.

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Additional Photos

click image to enlarge

The scene Tuesday morning at a Yarmouth condominium complex after an early morning explosion.

John Patriquin Staff Photographer

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50-52 Gables Drive, pictured in aerial imagery from Bing Maps in 2006 (left), and after Tuesday morning's explosion (right).

Left photo from Bing Maps; right photo by Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

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Firefighters inspect houses on Gables Drive.

Photo by Tom Bell / Staff Writer

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Emergency personnel from Yarmouth, Freeport and other towns respond to the scene of a gas explosion at North Gables condo complex in Yarmouth.

John Patriquin / Staff Photographer


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