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No determination made on cause of house explosion

PARK HILLS – Investigators still have not determined what caused a residence at 702 Pennsylvania Street in Park Hills to explode Tuesday afternoon.

Investigators have been unable to speak to two victims who were burned badly in the explosion.

According to officials, the man who suffered the worst burns is still in critical condition and is sedated. Doctors said his prognosis will depend on how well he does the next four or five days. He will face a long recovery, undergoing numerous surgeries.

He was initially taken to Mineral Area Regional Medical Center by St. Francois County Ambulance to be stabilized. According to a press release issued by the ambulance district, the man was then taken by ambulance to a level one trauma center for treatment of burns over 30 percent to the upper part of his body.

The second burn victim is said to be doing much better but is unable to talk. He is in stable condition and may be released from the hospital in the next week.

He was taken to Parkland Health Center in Farmington by ambulance to be stabilized. He was then taken by ambulance to a level one trauma center for burns over 10 percent to the upper part of his body.

Detective Tony Remshardt said he and Lt. Detective. Mark Rigel went to the hospital Wednesday to speak to the victims’ doctors and family members.

Officers said they have not been able to speak to the third man who fled from the burning house but they do know who he is. The third man refused medical treatment.

“We are in the process of finding him,” Remshardt said.

Remshardt said they heard rumors that there was a fourth man at the scene. He said the fourth man was outside the house talking with another person when it exploded. He was hit with debris but was not injured and indicated he did not know what caused the house to explode.

Remshardt said they are interviewing anyone who saw or heard anything before the explosion.

He said at this point, they do not know what caused the explosion.

Danielle Dieckman, an investigator with the state fire marshal’s office, said the cause of the fire is listed as undetermined. She said they are looking at three possibilities but she did not want to elaborate on what they were.

Both Dieckman and Park Hills police officers said they are waiting on an engineer from the insurance company check the furnace.

The explosion, which occurred about 1:30 p.m. Tuesday, knocked the windows and the doors off the residence and caused the west and front walls to collapse. The explosion sent debris flying several hundred yards and rattled nearby houses. Heat from the fire melted the siding on the trailer and apartment complex next to the house.

Officials said Jackie Carnell, who rented the house from a relative next door to her, had just come home when a ball of fire came at her. She received only minor injuries and went to the residence next door to get help. Another man who went to help her also received minor injuries.

Rigel has said the fire is suspicious, not only because there was an explosion but because three burn victims ran several blocks away when they could have gone to any one of the neighbors’ homes to get help.

He said instead of running next door to get help, the three men ran about three blocks and across Koen Creek to a house on Scoggins Street where one of the victim’s brother lived.

He said a deputy saw one of the victims run into the house on Scoggins. The occupants of that house at first denied that the burn victims were hiding inside but within a few minutes, the burn victims came outside and asked for medical attention.

Rigel would not identify the victims but said one of the men who fled the scene has had several run-ins with law enforcement for various incidents.

Park Hills Fire Chief Robert McFarland has said when firefighters first arrived, the house was fully engulfed in flames. It took about 30 minutes to get the fire, which is believed to have started in the front bedroom, knocked down and firefighters stayed on the scene several hours putting out hot spots.

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