FARMINGTON – The family of a veteran firefighter killed two months ago in a propane explosion that leveled a two-story building has hired a Lewiston law firm to investigate what caused the building’s propane line to leak in the days leading up to the blast.

Capt. Michael Bell, 68, a 30-year member of the Farmington Fire Rescue Department, was killed Sept. 16 when LEAP Inc.’s central office facility on Route 2 exploded because of a leak in its propane line under the parking lot.

Seven other people, including Bell’s brother, Fire Chief Terry Bell Sr., were injured in the explosion. The six firefighters hurt in the blast have been released from medical facilities.

Capt. Michael Bell died Sept. 16 in an explosion following a reported gas leak at the LEAP building in Farmington. Photo courtesy town of Farmington

Larry Lord, the maintenance supervisor for the nonprofit social services agency, helped clear the building of employees minutes before the explosion. He remains at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston in fair condition.

Steven Silin, an attorney at the Lewiston-based law firm Berman & Simmons, said Bell’s family retained the firm’s services and he and the firm are “working with experts in an effort to gain a more complete understanding of how this tragedy happened.”

“We can then determine how best to hold those responsible accountable as we pursue justice for the family and the community more broadly,” Silin added. “It’s still early in the process.”


Phone calls to the Maine State Fire Marshal’s Office for an update on the investigation into the explosion went unanswered Tuesday. Federal and state investigators determined the cause of the explosion was propane leaking from a line under the parking lot into the basement of the LEAP building.

The propane tank was filled with about 400 gallons of fuel on Sept. 13 by C.N. Brown of South Paris. The tank was empty three days later when Lord checked it.

As of Oct. 23, investigators had not determined what caused the leak or what sparked the explosion on Sept. 16, according to Stephen McCausland, spokesman for the Maine Department of Public Safety.

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