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Published: Wednesday, December 06, 2017 @ 2:35 PM
Updated: Thursday, December 07, 2017 @ 10:07 AM
KETTERING — Multiple agencies are expected to be involved in the investigation of a deadly Kettering house explosion early Tuesday, and the work could take months, one investigator said.
A 58-year-old woman, Darlene Baumgardner, died as a result of injuries suffered in the incident on North Claridge Drive. Massive flames shot into the sky as first responders arrived. Baumgardner was found in a neighbor’s yard.
Scott Bennett was hired by a law firm to investigate the explosion and was on the scene Wednesday. He is a former Dayton fire investigator and president of the International Association of Arson Investigators.
Many parties will seek their own review of the incident, including the victim’s family, insurance and utility companies. That work will take several months to finish, he said.
Kettering fire officials initially said a natural gas leak was a possible cause but have not provided additional information on the cause since then.
Dash-camera video released by Kettering police shows what officers and firefighters encountered Tuesday morning after a house exploded on North Claridge Drive.
This news organization requested the video to be released and is continuing to report and make inquiries about the investigation into the deadly incident.
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The video shows the police cruiser driving through the meandering suburban street. It was raining at the time. Initially, the video shows a Kettering fire engine and a glow in the background sky. When the officer pulls closer, the video shows massive flames reaching 30 to 50 feet in the sky where the home once stood.
Baumgardner was found in critical condition in the next door neighbor’s yard after her house exploded before dawn Tuesday, according to authorities. Officials said she succumbed to her injuries at the scene.
Preliminary findings from the autopsy indicate Baumgardner died of multiple blunt-force trauma and thermal injuries, the Montgomery County Coroner’s Office said today.
When the flames were extinguished at the house on North Claridge Drive, nothing but charred and splintered debris remained.
The Kettering emergency dispatch center was inundated with calls from neighbors, the first shortly after 4:30 a.m.
“Oh my God. I can see it a little better now. I think the house has collapsed. There was an explosion. There’s stuff in the yard,” one of the first 9-1-1 callers reported.
What caused the explosion?
The exact cause of the explosion remains under investigation, but the immediate indications were that it was linked to a natural gas leak, according to Kettering Fire Chief Tom Butts.
“It sure seems like it could have been fed by natural gas of some sort, just due to the bulk of the explosion here and the debris field,” he said. “I’m believing that the neighborhood is in shock from this occurring … This is a tragic event, but we’ll do everything we possibly can do to figure out exactly what caused this, so that this never happens again, or we can figure out how to keep this from happening again.”
If a gas leak is linked to the cause of the explosion, the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio may be obligated to launch an investigation, said PUCO Spokesman Matt Schilling.
“If the gas utility appears to be involved, as state regulators of gas pipeline safety, we would get involved,” Schilling said.
Schilling said PUCO investigates to determine that state and federal gas pipeline safety standards were followed and to determine if there were any contributing factors.
If the source of the leak is determined to be inside the home, Schilling said PUCO would not be involved in the investigation because it wouldn’t involve the “utilities infrastructure.”
Residents who live near the home told WHIO’s Sean Cudahy they were wakened by a loud boom that shook their homes.
“The garage door was blown across the street … Just an ‘oh my God’ moment,” said neighbor Jim Brown.
Neighbor Cynthia Michael said she and her husband heard the boom and searched their home for what might have caused it.
“It could happen to anybody,” Michael said. “You’re very blessed if your house is intact, especially considering this time of year and Christmas. It makes it even harder.”
Published: Monday, March 19, 2018 @ 5:18 PM
BUTLER COUNTY — A prisoner who was found unresponsive this morning in a Butler County jail has died.
At about 8 a.m., a corrections officer at Resolutions Jail on Second Street found Billy Hall, 31, unresponsive, according to Sheriff Richard Jones. Hall was transported by Hamilton emergency crews to Fort Hamilton Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
Hall was being held on charges out of Hamilton County. He had been in the jail for about two weeks.
Published: Friday, March 02, 2018 @ 2:52 AM
Updated: Monday, March 19, 2018 @ 8:39 AM
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Published: Monday, March 19, 2018 @ 2:41 PM
Updated: Monday, March 19, 2018 @ 4:40 PM
A Montgomery County Common Pleas Court judge denied a preliminary injunction sought by a Dayton resident who alleged an Ohio Open Meetings (OMA) Act violation because he was denied in his efforts to join a bus tour of Dayton Public Schools facilities.
Judge Richard Skelton ruled Monday in a 7-page decision that Dayton resident David Esrati did not meet the burden of proof about the bus tour containing substantive recommendations or discussion regarding potential closures of school buildings.
Esrati said he plans to continue the suit.
Skelton did write that the 20-member School Facilities Task Force formed to help Acting Superintendent Elizabeth Lolli was a public body — disagreeing with DPS and Dayton city attorneys.
“The court rejects the argument of DPS that the Task Force was only an advisory group for the superintendent and was not a ‘public body’ itself,” Skelton wrote, later adding: “Pretending that the Task Force, including three members of the Board, was only for the Board’s employee would allow a simple subterfuge to avoid the OMA.”
A Dayton Board of Education meeting that includes a potential vote on a school closing proposal is scheduled for Tuesday. An injunction could have stopped or delayed that vote.
“The burden is on the plaintiff to prove that such deliberative discussion occurred during the bus tour and was used by the Board (of Education) in proposing its formal action,” Skelton wrote. “The plaintiff did not produce the first witness who offered any proof that a deliberative or any other discussion was had on the bus tour at issue.”
Skelton wrote that the court “has no basis to find that plaintiff has shown he is likely to succeed on his claimed violation of the OMA at the trial on the merits.
Esrati said Skelton’s decision “makes no sense” and that he received legal advice that he should — and plans to — take the case to trial, currently scheduled for July 11.
“He said clearly they were a public body, and how I’m supposed to prove what they discussed or didn’t discuss is irrelevant because they’re not allowed to meet in private unless it’s for matters of executive session,” Esrati said, later adding: “There’s no way of me proving it because I wasn’t in the bus or in the school or anything else. And that’s a violation.”
Esrati filed the lawsuit without an attorney. He contends he was not allowed to attend a February bus tour of Dayton schools during which task force members went into schools until district attorneys advised them to cancel remaining stops.
On Thursday, Esrati questioned Lolli and also was cross-examined by DPS attorney Brian Wildermuth during the nearly 2½-hour, wide-ranging hearing.
Wildermuth did not immediately return a message seeking comment.
Wildermuth, who has said the task force wasn’t a public body and isn’t subject to the open meetings laws, argued in a post-hearing brief that the group was not a decision-maker and didn’t reach any consensus or specific recommendations.
“Plaintiff had the burden of proof,” Wildermuth wrote. “He did not carry that burden.”
Esrati said the board’s actions are a big part of the district’s problem.
Published: Monday, March 19, 2018 @ 9:48 AM
SPRINGFIELD — Topre America Corp. will expand again in Springfield, pledging to create more than 200 jobs and invest $73 million.
The third expansion at the manufacturer announced this morning comes before the Japanese auto parts firm has even completed construction on its latest project. Topre announced plans last year to invest $55 million and create 86 jobs in a 177,000-square-foot manufacturing plant.
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The latest expansion will add a 138,000-square-foot stamping facility to that site.
That brings the company’s total investment to about $130 million, with a projected total workforce just shy of 300 employees.
Springfield’s workforce was one reason Springfield was chosen for the latest expansion over sites in Indiana, Alabama and Tennessee.