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

YARMOUTH — A Yarmouth man was killed and at least a dozen of his neighbors were displaced by an explosion Tuesday that destroyed or damaged homes, showered the neighborhood with debris and jolted buildings for miles around.

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The scene of the destruction after an early Tuesday morning explosion in Yarmouth.

Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

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Police and fire officials said the blast, believed to be a propane explosion, occurred about 6:17 a.m. and destroyed the condominium unit at 50 Gables Drive, where Peter Corey lived.

Officers confirmed that Corey's body was found in his home. Corey, 66, lived alone and was described by neighbors as severely disabled.

State police spokesman Steve McCausland said the blast was being investigated by the state Fire Marshal's Office, and was likely caused by a propane leak in one of the units.

The explosion leveled 50 Gables Drive and destroyed part of the unit at 52 Gables Drive. Several other units in the complex on the cul-de-sac off North Road were damaged. The 14 condo units are broken up into seven separate duplexes.

The blast sent insulation and other debris high into the air. Twenty minutes afterward, it still looked like it was snowing, said Police Chief Michael Morrill.

Police said that despite the massive explosion, there was no fire.

Amory Houghton was in his garage, cleaning, when the adjacent building exploded. The force of the blast knocked debris onto him from his attic, he said.

"I think I'm lucky I didn't have my hearing aids on," he said. "I could see immediately where the major impact was. I looked at No. 50 -- it took it down to the foundation. It was very apparent it was an explosion from propane."

Robert and Rosemary MacKay, who live at 52 Gables Drive, an attached unit, and Mary Hallsey, who lives in a nearby building, were treated for minor injuries, McCausland said.

Houghton, who serves on the board of directors for the condominium association, said most of the residents are senior citizens.

Neighbors said Corey's sister-in-law, who lives in Falmouth, brought him food and checked on him daily. They said Corey largely kept to himself and they did not have much interaction with him.

Houghton's wife, Joan, said she was surprised that Corey lived on his own, given his disabilities, but his family said he liked to be by himself, rather than in a group home or assisted living.

Asked how much gas would have to accumulate to cause such a huge explosion, Sgt. Ken Grimes of the Fire Marshal's Office said it depended on the size of the room, the type of leak and how long the gas had been leaking.

A Maingas truck was on the scene after the explosion. A company employee referred questions to Mark Wienberg, a vice president of New Jersey-based Suburban Propane, the parent company of Maingas.

"We know the authorities will be doing a full investigation and we intend to fully support and assist them," Wienberg said. He would not comment further, saying, "We're still researching all of this."

Jeff Martin of Foreside Real Estate Management, which manages the complex, said Maingas fills the shared propane tanks connected to the homes. Maingas does not deal with problems or equipment in the homes, Martin said. Residents are responsible for choosing their own providers to service the equipment.

Several propane tanks serve the 14 units on Gables Drive. The tank that fed into the building that exploded is four units away and was not damaged by the blast.

(Continued on page 2)

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Additional Photos

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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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