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Investigation continues in home explosion

By Jessica Priest
May 29, 2014 at 12:29 a.m.
Updated May 30, 2014 at 12:30 a.m.

A ranger from the Department of Public Safety, left, and an individual from The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives work in the debris to investigate 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.

Investigators so far have not crossed anything off what's becoming a long list of possible reasons a Victoria home exploded, killing a young mother and injuring her baby Wednesday.

On Thursday, Victoria County Fire Marshal Ron Pray and a myriad of state and federal agencies pored over the scene, documenting the distance debris fell using a 3-D laser scanner likely worth millions of dollars.

Pray said a local Texas Ranger offered the scanner, which stands on a tripod and rotates slowly, for use in the investigation Wednesday.

"I'm sure grateful we have such a great group of folks. ... There's no way I can do this all by myself," Pray said, while his cellphone rang continually.

The 3-D laser scanner, also known as LiDAR Laser Scanner, is similar to what the Department of Public Safety troopers use when trying to reconstruct a fatal wreck, but Pray wasn't sure whether it would be able to simulate how the explosion occurred.

"Once we start touching stuff, we can't put it back exactly as it was. ... If I pick up that leaf down there," Pray said, pointing to the ground outside Coleto Baptist Church on Thursday. "I can't put it back down exactly where it was."

He said its accuracy will be invaluable if it is determined a crime occurred.

The Texas Railroad Commission also began evaluating a line that fed propane into the home that exploded at 801 Whispering Oaks Drive.

"They're looking at what was in use and what was not in use," Pray said of the appliances, adding natural causes will be explored, too.

Ramona Nye, a Texas Railroad Commission spokeswoman, wrote via email the agency is looking for any potential violation of its rules about safe storage, transportation or use of propane, and it anticipates issuing a report in 90 days.

The Texas Railroad Commission licenses contractors who can do repairs and maintenance on propane systems, Nye wrote.

A more intensive investigation couldn't immediately start because specialists in explosions were flying in from across the country, and debris that had fallen on the roads in the Oak Colony Estates neighborhood had to be cleared away, Pray said.

Insurance companies have also asked to be present during the collection of some evidence, such as shards of glass and pieces of wood.

"They all have the right to see what we're doing when we're testing," Pray said.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the National Fire Academy are also assisting.

At least one Victoria County Sheriff's Office deputy will be present for the next few days at the entrance of the subdivision at Oak Colony Drive because only residents are allowed inside.

The deputy asks to see the motorist's license to verify residence.

Pray said the deputy is important to secure the scene and to prevent theft because many homes still have shattered windows.

The explosion occurred about 7:15 a.m., killing 26-year-old Haley Singer and injuring her infant daughter, Parker.

Firefighters found Parker within 15 minutes in the rubble. She was being treated at University Hospital in San Antonio on Wednesday, but hospital officials declined to release her condition Thursday.

The home, which the couple purchased in 2012, was a 2,682-square-foot, two-story home, according to the Victoria Central Appraisal District's records.

Victoria Electric Co-Op restored power to 14 homes Wednesday.

Nina Campos, a spokeswoman for the company, said power could not be restored to two of the homes because they were too damaged.

A home at 802 Whispering Oaks Drive is not livable; it shifted off its foundation, and all its windows were shattered during the explosion. The ceiling to the room closest to 801 Whispering Oaks Drive also collapsed, Pray said.

Reporter Sara Sneath contributed to this story.



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