One dead in Pennsboro explosion

PENNSBORO – One person is dead from an explosion and fire that destroyed a pair of Pennsboro residences Monday night.

James White, director of the Ritchie County Office of Emergency Services, said officials have not yet released the name of the person who died as a result of an explosion and fire at a house on East Myles Avenue in Pennsboro.

West Virginia State Police spokesman Sgt. Michael Baylous said officials have not yet released the name of the deceased, pending identification from the state medical examiner’s office.

White said firefighters from the Pennsboro Volunteer Fire Department were summoned around 10:30 p.m. when a large explosion rocked Pennsboro. Neighbors reported seeing flames above the trees and the explosion shaking windows on Main Street.

“When the fire department got there the one house had exploded, and the house beside it was on fire,” White said.

White said both homes were occupied, with one person living in each structure. No one was home when the second house caught fire.

“The first house was covered in flames. The second house was also a total loss,” White said.

Fire crews from Pennsboro, Ellenboro, Harrisville and Greenwood (Doddridge County) were on-scene. Crews remained at the site until about 6 a.m. They were joined by the West Virginia State Police, the state fire marshal’s office, the sheriff’s department, the office of emergency services and the county coroner.

White said officials initial instinct was a gas or propane explosion, but they determined none of the other structures were in danger. No evacuations were necessary.

The incident happened along the major thoroughfare in Pennsboro, White said. The fire caused damage to a fiber optic cable and is hampering cell and phone service in Pennsboro.

White said there were oxygen bottles in the house and they did explode. He said investigators are still working to determine if there was fire and explosion or an explosion that caused the fire.

“He hasn’t made any determination yet,” White said.

Officials are still investigating the cause of the incident.

Baylous said they are looking at all possibilities, including accidental, noting there were oxygen tanks in the house.