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Investigators continue to delve into cause of May explosion

By Jessica Priest
July 5, 2014 at 2:05 a.m.
Updated July 6, 2014 at 2:06 a.m.

The scene of an explosion that destroyed a two-story home near the intersection of Oak Colony and Whispering Oaks drives in Victoria County. The May 28 explosion killed a young mother and severely injured her infant daughter.

The May 28 house explosion at 801 Whispering Oaks Drive that killed a young mother, Haley Singer, and injured her infant daughter, Parker, remains under investigation.

Victoria County Fire Marshal Ron Pray is waiting for reports from the State Fire Marshal's Office, the Texas Railroad Commission and the medical examiner.

Pray released the site to the family, but insurance agents continue to descend on the neighborhood to conduct their own investigations.

Multiple houses were damaged that day, so it may take a while for claims to be filed and resolved, he said.

He has not ruled out any cause.

"I'm not trying to hide anything. I have a responsibility to put out correct information," Pray said about the investigation in the home explosion.

The Texas Railroad Commission counted 16 liquid petroleum gas-related incidents - which includes propane and butane - in the Crossroads during the past 10 years.

Records for incidents older than 10 years were not available Thursday. The list also does not distinguish between incidents that happened at a residence or a business.

Only one other incident July 4, 2010, in Wharton County resulted in a fatality. There were also eight other injuries.

Propane and butane are heavier than air, which means in an explosion, the damage to a structure pancakes down.

Whether a fire starts after the explosion depends on several factors, including the materials in the home and the ventilation system.

Nylon or satin is more flammable, for example, than cotton and gives off more heat, too, Pray said.

Jingjing Cui, a University of Houston-Victoria professor who teaches general inorganic chemistry, agreed both gasses accumulate in low-lying areas.

She wrote via email that they may also be difficult to disperse.

"The two gases will ignite if mixed with air in a gas to air ratio of between 1:50 and 1:10," she wrote. "The low limit for flammability means that even small leaks could have serious results."

Propane and butane belong to the alkane family, meaning they are made up of only carbon or hydrogen with a certain ratio.

Butane has four carbons to propane's three, she wrote.

Mollie K. O'Dell, the director of communications and media relations at the National Propane Gas Association in Washington, D.C., said President Barack Obama recently signed into law the Reliable Home Heating Act in the wake of a colder than normal winter in the Midwest.

It allows governors to increase the number of hours a driver can operate a propane bobtail truck.

"There aren't a lot of laws right now talking about making it safer because it is safe," she said, noting some 10 million Americans safely use the product in their homes. "You have really unfortunate accidents like the one you're talking about right now. I don't want to lessen that at all."

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