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W. Va. Gas Station Explosion... Ermmm, cause determination?

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  • W. Va. Gas Station Explosion... Ermmm, cause determination?

    Before going into this, here is the article I am referring to: http://www.emsresponder.com/article/...tion=1&id=4829


    Now, in this statement, the investigators are ruling the cause of this explosion to have been accidental, however they were unable to identify a specific ignition source, that there were several possible sources. My understanding is that to rule a definitive 'accidental', 'incendiary', 'natural' or 'undetermined', you must be able to prove three things. A suitible ignition source, the first fuel ignited, and how the two came together. Is this incorrect on my thinking? I do understand that of course, this is a news statement, and not entirely accurate. But based on what this article is saying wouldn't this be more accuratly described as Undetermined? I'm not criticizing anyone here, just looking for clarification.

  • #2
    undetermined

    I'll agree with you, the explosion could have been triggered by any number of ways. (light switch, thermostat, pilot light.....) And the amount of distruction would make it extremely difficult, if not impossible to determine the exact cause.

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    • #3
      In hindsight, I suppose I could understand this to be classified as accidental. If all the possible ignition sources were identified 100%, and all of them would have been accidental in nature, then I could understand it. So long as there was absolutely no evidence that would remotely point in any other direction.

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      • #4
        If I was writing the report, I would rule the fire undetermined, but could put in my narrative that I had eliminated any incendiary(If I could)causes and believe the fire to be accidental. It is allowable to do that but the "Official Ruling" would have to be undetermined if you do not know the ignition source and how they came together.
        To expound farther, If I had a candle, and placed it near some curtains by a open window. The wind blew the curtains into the flame and ignited them, burned the kitchen up. We know the flame source,fuel, we know what brought them together, would you rule accidental, incendiary or undetermined?
        I would rule undetermined, unless I could prove that there was no intent(or incendiary if I could prove intent). Anybody else have an opinion ?

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        • #5
          Using that example of yours, I would rule accidental IF you had factual evidence to prove that the wind was the cause of the fuel and ignition source coming together. It's almost too borderline to make a definite determination in my eyes. undetermined sounds as if it might be the better choice though. Take that for granted as I'm fairly inexperienced in the finer details of investigation. Also, thanks for your reply as well.

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          • #6
            The reason that I used that example is because I did rule it accidental,(about 5 years ago when I was real green) later, after the couple divorced, the wife came forward and told the police that her husband started the fire on purpose by setting the candle near the curtains and leaving the house. Now she may have been saying that to screw the ex-husband but it shook me up enough to be more careful on my calls. If your fairly new to investigations, dont let anyone pressure you into making a call that you cant prove. If you go to court, its your butt in the hotseat trying to explain your determination. And, dont be afraid to call a fire undetermined. Its easier to re-open it later if you get more evidence than it is to change from accidental to incendiary, and its too late if you already called an accidental, incendiary. Just my view, I'm still learning every day.

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            • #7
              Agreed. I was thinking just that after replying this last time. Ultimately it would be difficult to completely prove that wind was the cause of the curtain to come in contact with the flame. While yes, it is probable, there are holes in that conclusion as it would be difficult if not impossible to factually prove the windspeed at that very window opening and the very moment it was thought to have started the blaze. Too little would not have brought the curtain to the flame, too much would have extinguished the flame before igniting the curtain. I agree also, undertermined is the way to go if you can't prove/recreate 100% your hypothesis.

              By the way, how's the snow in Evansville? (My family is from Evansville, I'm in Louisville)

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              • #8
                My thought on that particular fire was not so much doubting if the wind brought the curtains into the flames, but, that the husband placed the candle so that the wind would blow the curtains into it. Basically like leaving food on the stove. It is impossible to know if the people did it on purpose or not.
                e-mail me at [email protected], and, the snow is melting but it is still cold.

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