Millcreek, UT – By Matt Canham, The Salt Lake Tribune
MILLCREEK — All that remains of Reva Morley’s home is charred wood and a few scattered bricks on top of a blackened foundation.
Salt Lake County firefighters believe Morley, 86, suffocated to death when natural gas filled her one-story house at 925 E. Best Avenue (3530 S.). That gas later fueled an explosion that leveled the structure just after 2 a.m. Saturday, although the garage was unscathed.
Firefighters removed Morley’s severely burned body from the rubble, Salt Lake County Fire Capt. Jay Ziolkowski said. She was found in her bed and was the only person in the home at the time.
“More than likely, she didn’t suffer,” Ziolkowski said.Her son, Duane, would have been at the home Saturday, except he was visiting family members for the Christmas holiday.
The force of the blast Saturday shattered windows at five surrounding homes and flung debris throughout the neighborhood. Fire crews could see the flames shooting skyward from two blocks away, Ziolkowski said.
Lance Lee, who lives across the street, thought an earthquake had hit the Wasatch Front until he looked outside.
“It was like someone dropped a bomb on the house,” Lee said. Morley’s curtains fell in his front yard.
Neighbors said the explosion caused the house to collapse immediately, but the flames didn’t appear for a few minutes.
“Then it was panic after that,” neighbor Byron Skinner said. “Everyone was stunned by the damage it did.”
Angela Maddocks escaped injury when her bedroom window shattered, sending large pieces of glass throughout the room, said her mother, Julene Maddocks. Bricks and debris shot into another, unoccupied bedroom, she said.
The fire would eventually threaten the Maddocks house, located just east of Morley’s, Ziolkowski said. Firefighters secured that home and then battled the blaze. The two-alarm fire was under control in about 10 minutes and completely out about three hours later.
Fire crews continue to investigate how the natural gas leak occurred and what sparked the explosion, Ziolkowski said.