Truckee explosion rattles community
August 21, 2009
TRUCKEE – Residents of the Henness Flats affordable apartment complex reacted Thursday to the explosion that killed a neighbor and injured four others Tuesday.
“The fire caught first and then came the explosion,” said Mike Fox, who lives in an apartment near where the blast occurred. “There was a person screaming, ‘there’s people in there.'”
Melodie Hames, who also lives across from the apartment, said she first heard a loud “snap.”
“A little girl said, ‘My house is on fire, my family is in the house,’ and I called 911,” Hames said.
The explosion killed a 27-year-old woman and sent a 30-year-old man with serious injuries to the burn unit at the UC Davis Medical Center, according to police.
Caleb Roope, president and chief executive officer of The Pacific Companies, which owns the Henness Flats, identified the woman Wednesday as Isela Minutti.
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The blast occurred Tuesday at Henness Flats shortly before 4 p.m. Three children, ages 12, 7, and 10 days old at the time, also were injured, but were released to the care of relatives Tuesday night. The names of the children and 30-year-old man were not released as of press time.
Investigators still are unsure of the cause of the explosion, which blew out the windows of the apartment. The Truckee Police Department on Thursday said it is satisfied the blast was accidental.
“We’re satisfied that the explosion was accidental, but we had hoped to have a resolution as to the cause sooner,” said Truckee Police Lt. Harwood Mitchell.
Southwest Gas has been on site testing the natural gas distribution system, and found no indication of any failure or leaks, according to a press release from the Truckee Fire Protection District.
A letter posted on residents’ doors from Henness Flats Management dated Wednesday, Aug. 19, said the company intended to disconnect the gas in other buildings to investigate the cause of the explosion.
Residents of the same building within the complex have been displaced during the investigation, and apartment managers Cambridge Real Estate have put up the nine households in a local hotel, said Jeffrey Passadore, president of Cambridge.
“This is a really tragic situation, and we’re anxious to get them home as soon as we can,” Passadore said.
It’s unsure when the displaced families will be let back in the complex.
Cambridge’s insurance company has also brought in a “cause and origin expert” to assist the investigation, Passadore said.
“The units that were occupied, with the exception of the one where the event occurred, are in the same condition – no damage. Sprinklers were contained to the one apartment,” Passadore said.
According to a statement released Wednesday by Caleb Roope, president and chief executive officer of The Pacific Companies, which owns the Henness Flats, a fund was established Wednesday at the Truckee branch of Wells Fargo Bank for Isela Minutti, 27, who died from injuries suffered in the blast.
Counseling services will be made available free of charge to those affected by the explosion, Roope said in the statement.
Bud Haley, of Jax on the Tracks in downtown Truckee, also is helping, as one of his employees lived in the unit next door to the explosion.
“I wanted to figure out a way to help, not only the family, but others affected,” Haley said.
A donation box has been set up at the restaurant, that goes to the memorial fund set up at Wells Fargo.
Jax on the Tracks is also planning a community luncheon next week to thank the first responders from Truckee Police, Truckee Fire, and others, Haley said. The time and day is still to be determined.