Fort Wayne, IN – A garage explosion that killed a Fort Wayne woman last month has been ruled accidental caused by a natural gas leak on her property, city fire officials said.
Police and firefighters were called to 8128 Corto Calle St., the home of Janice Betancourt, 55, on March 8. She was found with burns over her body. Panels from the garage door were strewn about the driveway of the northeast-side home near Stellhorn and Goeglein roads after the explosion, a police report said.
Betancourt was rushed to St. Joseph Hospital in critical condition; she died there April 14.
The cause of the explosion was ruled accidental Tuesday. Betancourt triggered it by lighting a cigarette in the garage, according to investigators.
There were no natural gas lines attached to Betancourts home, but natural gas lines on the property were leaking, according to a report. Neighbors reported they had noticed the leak for at least several months and possibly for up to two years.
Firefighters believe Betancourt did not smell the natural gas that day. Investigators could not smell it as they examined the scene the day of the blast, the report said.
Readings by gas company meters indicated the presence of natural gas. Gas company employees said levels of mercaptan, a non-toxic additive that gives natural gas an odor, can drop because of moisture and soil conditions, the report said.
The Allen County Coroners Office concluded Betancourt died of a blood infection and multisystem failure because of a thermal burn injury.
Betancourt, a homemaker who enjoyed crafts, is survived by her husband, three children and several grandchildren.