Investigators searching for cause of house explosion in Varina

Published: Mar. 31, 2011 at 9:38 PM EDT|Updated: Mar. 31, 2011 at 10:02 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Henrico investigators tell me they're not even close to finding a cause to the house explosion in Varina that sent debris well beyond the five acre lot.

There's a large propane tank in the back yard and it's intact, but investigators aren't ruling it out as a source.

By mid-day Thursday, Virginia State Police circled above the five acre lot, where a more than half million dollar custom home once stood on Yahley Mill Road.

On the ground, investigators from Henrico, Richmond, Chesterfield, Hanover, even the ATF. Explosive experts and specially trained dogs are all working toward one goal.

"We're back on the rubble doing hand digging to try to get through that debris pile to see if we can find some source of ignition," said Captain Chris Buehren, with Henrico Fire.

Revere Gas company has cause and origin investigators on scene too. Revere tells me, it serviced a single thousand gallon propane tank for the owners since 2006. The tank holds 800 gallons and was last filled this January. On February 11th, a Revere spokesman said the owners requested to be on a will call list, to fill the tank when needed.

"If the propane tank was actually involved in the fire, or in the explosion, most likely it would not have been intact and would show signs of damage. However we do know there's propane feeding that house so we can't rule that out," said Capt. Buehren.

The rental listing showcased gas cooking and three gas fire places including one in the master bedroom. The home was valued at more than $695,000. The rent was nearly $2500.

The Henrico Assessments office listed the owners as Harold and Linda Cheatham. Neighbors said they lived out of state.

Some of the debris from Wednesday night's explosion traveled as far as two miles from ground zero on Turner Road where Investigators found sheet rock and other debris along the roadway.

"Some of that debris could have been carried by the wind during the evening when the fire occurred and explosion occurred," said Capt. Buehren.

The owners of the house arrived late Thursday and are meeting with their insurance company.  They can't get on site until the scene is cleared by authorities. Investigators will be out at the site until it gets dark. But will return Friday morning.

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