Tuesday, November 24th, 2020
Case of exploding house closed
Official cause of explosion undetermined
By Sydney Albert
An explosion in October completely destroyed a home at 3741 County Road 716A. Ro. . .
CELINA - The cause of an Oct. 11 explosion that leveled a house and left a woman dead has been listed as "undetermined" by the State Fire Marshal's Office.
However, propane gas had likely been released into and accumulated inside the structure. The investigation into the explosion at 3741 County Road 716A in October has officially been closed, with investigator Scott R. Gelbaugh writing in his final report that no criminal activity had been uncovered.
"As of the writing of this report, all preliminary indicators are that an undetermined amount of propane gas was released from the system and accumulated inside the structure," Gelbaugh wrote.
However, the location or reason for the leak in the house's propane systems had "yet to be determined," and the final cause of the explosion was ultimately labeled as "undetermined."
According to Edward McClurg, both he and his wife, Rosella, were nonsmokers, and they hadn't kept candles in the house because he didn't like the aroma, the report detailed.
The day of the explosion, Rosella McClurg had reportedly gone to church at around 11 a.m. while Edward McClurg had stayed home and watched TV, he told investigators. After Rosella returned around 12:30 p.m., he went downstairs to the basement living room and fell asleep around 3 p.m. He woke up again at 5 p.m., and reportedly hadn't noticed any strange odors while in the basement.
Edward McClurg told investigators he then went to take a shower as he and his wife had plans to play cards with friends later that night. He noticed a lack of hot water and then smelled an odor of propane when he got out of the shower. He said he believed it was coming from air ducts in the floor and into the master bathroom.
He reportedly told his wife about the smell, but when she went to the bathroom, she did not notice the odor. Edward McClurg reportedly planned to call a plumber in the morning due to the smell and the water heater apparently not working properly.
Rosella McClurg began to get ready for the night and Edward McClurg reportedly left to pick up sandwiches from the Veterans of Foreign Wars hall. He told investigators that when he had left, his wife had been in the master bedroom getting ready.
Edward McClurg said he'd driven to the corner of the road when he felt the blast from the explosion. After turning around and seeing the large cloud of smoke coming from the direction of his house, he told investigators he'd driven back home, pulled into the yard, gotten out of his vehicle and began yelling for his wife. He said he could not find her, and firefighters arrived shortly after.
At about 5:56 p.m. Oct. 11, first responders were called to the scene. The home had been reduced to a pile of rubble upon their arrival, with fire reportedly observed along the west side of the basement.
After several hours of sifting through debris, the body of a woman later identified as Rosella McClurg was reportedly found in basement under a table. Three individuals at a neighboring house were treated for injuries they suffered from falling debris.
Gelbaugh wrote that the area of origin for the explosion could be refined only as the residence itself.
Investigators said the property's 500-gallon propane tank's fill gauge indicated it was about 20% full.
Montezuma Fire Chief Lee Braun said propane service to the residence had been turned off shortly after firefighters arrived.
Edward McClurg told investigators he had recently checked the tank, saying it was about 40% full. A representative from Ferrallgas, the McClurgs' provider, reportedly calculated the tank should have been about 43% full.
Gelbaugh wrote the house's second-stage propane regulator was found on the west side of the residence among debris, and it and some of the associated piping had sustained damage during the explosion.
In the basement, the house's propane water heater and propane forced-air furnace - the only appliances that used propane in the house, according to McClurg - had both sustained fire damage.
The property had been insured, and McClurg told investigators he and his wife did not have a mortgage. McClurg also reported the residence had had no electrical or mechanical issues.
The propane water heater had been replaced about 18 months before, and on the day of the explosion, the propane forced-air heater reportedly had been turned off. The couple had had their windows open on the fairly mild day, which Gelbaugh documented was around 71 degrees. McClurg reported the propane tank hadn't been inspected since its installation in 2003, when the house was first built.
Mercer County Coroner Tim Heinrichs did not order an autopsy of Rosella McClurg's body, but thermal burns had been noted on her chest, arms, face and the back of her body, according to Gelbaugh.