Investigators have determined that a fatal house explosion in Van Zandt County was an accident.
Sunday, multiple fire departments responded to the home explosion between Canton and Mabank. Investigators were on the County Road 2430 explosion scene, just north of Mabank, for more than five hours. According to authorities, an elderly woman died in the explosion. Neighbors add that Sunday's incident was not the first time they've watched the couple's house go up in flames.
Monday, the Van Zandt County Fire Marshal's office determined that a gas leak was to blame. The investigation revealed a partially open propane valve on a line that ran into the residence that was not being used. The fire marshal says the propane vapors seeped into the house and ignited just moments after the resident returned home. Arson dogs helped authorities rule out any criminal intent in the explosion.
"It sounded like a sonic boom... like it was right over the top of this house. It shook this entire trailer," explains neighbor Robert Dearick.
Dearick says the elderly couple who lived in the home had lived there for more than three decades, and they'd just rebuilt in the last few years after another fire burned their home to the ground.
According to Robert, his daughter had just dropped off the elderly woman who was killed in the explosion after taking her to visit her husband in the hospital.
"By the time my daughter got down here and went in [her] trailer, that boom went of and she came running out of the trailer and told me to call 911," recalls Robert.
Another neighbor adds that just seconds after the explosion, her son ran across the street and pushed past the property's fence trying to get to the elderly woman inside of the burning home, but the flames were just too intense.
"Fire jumped about as high as, well, about 10 feet above the house. Then it turned to black smoke and just burned on up," says Robert.
While still coming to grips with what happened to his neighbors, Robert can't stand to think about how close his own daughter was to being at the home when it exploded.
"It's just luck that she didn't go in," he says.
Officials say the elderly woman was the only one inside the house when it exploded. Authorities are withholding her name.
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