Natural gas escaping from piping led to the explosion of a Middletown apartment building last week that seriously injured one resident, officials said.
Lt. Frank Baughman, city fire marshal, said the natural gas permeated the nearby apartments and that the furnace unit in Apt. 422 ignited the gas, which caused the explosion about 11:30 a.m. Dec. 2 at the Townhomes West apartment complex in the 400 block of Cribbs Avenue.
Baughman said the incident remains under investigation, but criminal activity has been ruled out.
Ben Jones, executive director of the Butler County Metropolitan Housing Authority, said preventative maintenance typically is performed on the public housing apartments every January and that unit was inspected again in September. He said the agency is looking through records to make sure there were no issues with the apartment heating unit when it was last checked.
The one person injured in the explosion, Brittany Vanderpool, 31, was asleep at the time of the incident, according to the Middletown Division of Fire report. She suffered a back injury when the structure collapsed, the report read. Her mother said she suffered a broken back and was a patient at Atrium Medical Center.
“She’s lucky to be alive,” her mother wrote in an email to The Journal-News.
Jones said five of the six apartments were occupied, and the BMHA is finding public housing apartments in Middletown for the 10 displaced residents who were assisted by the American Red Cross.
The apartments have been condemned by the City of Middletown because they’re uninhabitable, according to a city official. The city will notify BMHA it must demolish or rebuild the structure, according to an official. Jones said after meeting with the insurance adjuster, he will determine the “best path for the future” of the 44-year-old building.
Middletown firefighters were called to the apartments on Cribbs Avenue and South Main Street for a possible explosion and collapsed structure, according to the report. Firefighters said there was heavy damage and a “large debris field” was encountered.
The firefighters and members of the Butler County Tactical Response Team searched the buildings and all residents were accounted, the report read. They searched the stable parts of the structure and used a ladder to look in the second-floor buildings.
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