Liberal, KS- By George Diepenbrock, Southwest Daily Times
Fire investigators determined Saturday that a propane leak caused the accidental explosion that killed a 15-year-old female and destroyed a rural home early Thursday in northern Seward County.
“Normally, once it builds up, it finds something whether it be a spark or a pilot light,” said Mike Rice, Seward County Rural Fire Chief, this morning.
Eighteen different personnel, including Rice, a representative of the state fire marshall’s office and multiple insurance adjusters and specialists, sifted through the rubble of the destroyed home nearly all day Saturday to find the cause.
County fire personnel received an emergency call just after 4:30 a.m. Thursday of an explosion and fire at the home located 1 mile east of U.S. Highway 83 and about 1 mile to the northeast of the Northern Natural Gas, Sublette Compression Station.
Residents of the rural home, Leland and Natalie Lambert along with a 13-year-old male and a 3-year-old female sustained minor injuries while Samantha Alvarez died as a result of the accident. Leland Lambert had previously been married to Alvarez’s mother, Rice said.
After Saturday’s inspection, Rice said investigators could not definitively determine the ignition source that combined with the propane to cause the blast.
While multiple contractors worked on improving several areas of the home leading up to last week, Rice said Lambert turned on the propane source to the house at about 9 p.m. Wednesday following the insertion of new gas lines.
“It looks like (the propane) gathered in the crawl space under the house,” Rice said.
While inspection from the government is now complete, Rice said the different insurance companies will now settle the matter further.