The Kansas State Fire Marshal's Office is now investigating an explosion in Finney County that killed one and injured two others over the weekend.
Spencer Unruh, 17, died in the blast. His mother Kelly and 14-year-old brother Riley were critically hurt and remain in a Wichita hospital.
FactFinder 12 spoke with the State Fire Marshal's Office Tuesday afternoon. A spokesperson there confirmed the explosion was caused by a concentration of natural gas.
FactFinder 12 also spoke with a natural gas expert, Mark McDonald with NatGas Consulting, who studies these types of incidents across the country. After reviewing video and photos of the scene, he calls this a "high level" explosion, which means a large volume of gas had to have collected in the home.
We wanted to know if the people inside the home smelled gas prior to the blast. McDonald says when enough gas to cause an explosion collects in a home, the smell is horrendous.
Garden City's fire chief told FactFinder 12 the Unruh's house was hooked up to a Midwest Energy gas meter. The gas is required to be odorized so when there is a leak people can smell it.
FactFinder 12 asked Midwest Energy if the gas had the proper amount of odor added to it, but they referred us back to the fire marshal's office. That is a question we are working to find out from investigators.
We asked the fire marshal's office if anyone reported smelling gas on or near that property. It says investigators are still interviewing people and working to find out.
In 2012, a woman died when her Topeka house exploded from a gas leak. The same thing happened to a man in Kismet in 2011.
FactFinder 12 searched through pages of federal pipeline safety records to find out how many times this has happened in our state. This is what we found out.
- 22 explosions
- 3 deaths (including Spencer Unruh)
- 16 injuries (including Kelly and Riley Unruh)
The 22 explosions caused a total of more than $5.7M in damage. That number does not include the Unruh's house.
FactFinder 12 is looking at some of the similarities of what happened in the past to better understand what may have happened this time. We are asking investigators questions about how gas customers can prevent explosions in the future.
A spokesperson with Midwest Energy says the company is cooperating with the state investigation and they extends its sympathies to the Unruh family.
FactFinder 12 filed a request for inspection records and information on any prior calls about gas to the Finney County home in the past. As the State Fire Marshal's Office continues its investigation, you can expect us to keep you posted.
A fund has been set up to help the family with funeral and medical expenses.
- Unruh Family Memorial Fund
- Western State Bank
- 1500 E. Ave.
- Garden City, KS 67846