A gas explosion destroyed an N.C. 97 home and blew the woman living there out one of its windows Monday night.
The blast happened about 7 p.m. at 11693 N.C. 97 E., witnesses and a fire official said.
The victim, Michelle Allen, was taken to Nash General Hospital and airlifted to the N.C. Jaycee Burn Center at N.C. Memorial Hospital in Chapel Hill.
Digging through the rubble, investigators traced the explosion to a leak caused when a propane-fueled wall heater was removed, then the gas flow to a stove was turned back on, said Chris Bissette, Nash County deputy fire marshal. The search did not show that a gas shutoff that meets the building code had been installed after the heater was removed.
Basically, when the tank was cut on this afternoon, it started slowly leaking gas, he said. What the ignition source was, we dont know exactly.
Who removed the heater is a mystery.
We dont know, Bissette said. Nobody can remember.
Sisters Maggie Griswold, 19, and Rachel Griswold, 17, who live nearby on Whitley Circle Way, said they ran up within seconds of the explosion.
When I ran up, I saw the house on fire, Maggie Griswold said. I saw the woman who lived there was in the ditch. … (Firefighters) were working on her.
She just moved in this weekend, Rachel Griswold said.
Video that Rachel Griswold shot with her cell phone shows flames flaring brightly and leaping high above the cinder block house. After the blaze was snuffed out, the houses walls were left either charred or as piles of rubble.
Responding to the call were Sharpsburg, Coopers and West Mount firefighters and the Nash County Emergency Medical Service.