Propane believed to be cause of house explosion

Family of three injured, mother flown to Denver hospital


Butch Knowlton, director of La Plata County Office of Emergency Management, looks over what is left of a house that exploded on County Road 243. Enlarge photo

JERRY McBRIDE/Durango Herald

Butch Knowlton, director of La Plata County Office of Emergency Management, looks over what is left of a house that exploded on County Road 243.

A propane leak is being blamed for a home explosion Tuesday night in La Plata County that sent a family of three to the hospital.

The explosion was reported at 8:18 p.m. at 6541 County Road 243, about 6½ miles north of Helen’s Corner, past Lemon Reservoir.

The family members were identified as Tim and Karen Kelley, and their daughter, Cameron.

Tim was in “serious” condition, and Cameron was in “good” condition Wednesday at Mercy Regional Medical Center, said David Bruzzese, spokesman for the hospital.

Karen was in “critical but stable” condition in the intensive-care unit at University of Colorado Hospital in Denver.

The Kelleys reported a possible gas leak to a propane company, said Rich Graeber, chief of the Upper Pine Fire Protection District. When a serviceman arrived, he found the home had been leveled by an explosion.

The serviceman called the fire department and located the girl in the debris, he said.

“When we pulled up, it was just a pile of lumber,” Graeber said. “It just took a house and reduced it to toothpicks. It was just a violent explosion.”

The parents were trapped underneath 4 feet to 6 feet of debris weighing 500 to 600 pounds, he said. Debris was scattered 200 feet away, and a picture frame hung high in a tree.

“It was an amazing rescue,” Graeber said. “It was just hand-to-hand taking stuff out of there one pound at a time and trying not to have any of it fall on them.”

If residents smell propane in a house, they should leave the house and call the fire department, Graeber said.

Propane is heavier than air, which means it can settle in the basement and other low areas. One gallon of liquid propane expands to 265 gallons of vapor, he said.

“You’ve got to get out of the house,” he said.

shane@durangoherald.com

A helicopter takes off on Tuesday night with a victim of a house explosion on County Road 243 on the north end of Lemon Reservoir. Enlarge photo

JERRY McBRIDE/Durango Herald

A helicopter takes off on Tuesday night with a victim of a house explosion on County Road 243 on the north end of Lemon Reservoir.

A picture frame rests in a tree about 30 yards from where a house exploded. Enlarge photo

JERRY McBRIDE/Durango Herald

A picture frame rests in a tree about 30 yards from where a house exploded.

Butch Knowlton, director of La Plata County Office of Emergency Management, looks over what is left of a house that exploded on County Road 243. Enlarge photo

JERRY McBRIDE/Durango Herald

Butch Knowlton, director of La Plata County Office of Emergency Management, looks over what is left of a house that exploded on County Road 243.

Emergency medical personnel load the third victim of an explosion into a helicopter on Tuesday night on County Road 243 alongside of Lemon Reservoir. Enlarge photo

JERRY McBRIDE/Durango Herald

Emergency medical personnel load the third victim of an explosion into a helicopter on Tuesday night on County Road 243 alongside of Lemon Reservoir.

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