Propane tanks blamed for fatal home explosion

August 16, 2012 4:21:32 AM PDT
The investigation into a deadly house explosion on Long Island is just beginning Wednesday.


The blast, in the Suffolk County hamlet of Brentwood happened just before noon Tuesday on Prospect Drive and left an 18-month-old boy dead.

The explosion reduced the home to rubble and sent debris flying into neighboring houses. Two homes are now condemned. The only things that remains are shattered lives.

Prospect Drive remains closed as investigators sift through the debris looking for clues. There were no natural gas lines feeding into the house, but authorities are looking at two huge propane tanks located outside the home. They believe those tanks somehow ignited.

Residents say at least 10 people lived in the home, and details continue to emerge about homeowner Marcel Richards. Last year, he was cited for operating an illegal rooming house. Then, in June, Richards pleaded guilty to housing violations and paid a $3,000 fine.

Rah-quan Palmer died in the blast, and his mother and father were injured. Because of the death, the Suffolk County police homicide squad is investigating.

"We won't have any answers on causes anytime soon," Detective Lieutenant Jack Fitzpatrick said. "We'll be at this for quite some time."

Four other people were hurt, including a plumber and an insurance representative who were at the house to check on basement flooding, and nine first responders were also treated.

The force of the blast damaged two neighboring homes that had to be condemned, meaning that some neighbors are now homeless.

"I was in the backyard," one neighbor said. "I can't even comprehend. It just was so fast. It just exploded."

Palmer was pulled from the rubble and rushed to the hospital, where he died. His parents, 23-year-old Christina Morgan and 28-year-old Rashamel Palmer, were hurt, along with residents, Calvin Harris, 23, and Irving Justiniano, 63.

Michael Ray, 48, a plumber with Your Town Cesspool Plumbing & Heating in Central Islip, and Patricia Salegna-Maqueda, 46, a representative from State Farm Insurance, were seriously injured.

Two neighbors, Patricia Arnoth, 47, and her son, Michael Arnoth, 24, were treated and released.

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