PORT ORCHARD, Wash. – A powerful explosion destroyed a home south of Port Orchard early Tuesday morning, and authorities later confirmed that two people were killed in the blast.
Emergency crews responded to the scene, off SE Soholt Lane in south Kitsap County, at around 4 a.m. after receiving reports of a loud explosion.
The blast was so powerful it completely leveled the home and blew out windows at nearby Mullenix Ridge Elementary School. Intense flames broke out in the triple-wide mobile home immediately after the explosion. There were also reports of damage to other nearby homes.
Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Scott Wilson called the explosion “disastrous.” He later said that crews had found two sets of human remains amid the wreckage of what used to the bedroom of the demolished home. The victims have not been identified, but public records list a 70-year-old William McDonald and his 65-year-old wife Maria as owners of the home.
“We are operating under the assumption that these are the individuals who are in this disaster,” Wilson said. “We have no reason to believe there would be anybody else in the house.”
People miles away from the blast site – as far away as Renton – reported they were awakened by it, and Wilson said Kitsap County’s 911 dispatch center received hundreds of calls about the blast. The Pacific Northwest Seismic Network reported that the shock wave from the explosion rocked seismometers all around the region.
Neighbors used words like “bomb,” “earthquake” and “freight train” to describe what they heard and felt.
Firefighters say one resident reported his toilet shattered.
“My wife and I were asleep and then, suddenly, I get a huge percussive–it was a blast,” said Rick Lear. “The blinds were thrown off of the window onto the night stand beside the bed. Things were off the walls.”
One nearby neighbor, Joan Long, said the blast shattered windows in her home and caused an outer door to jam shut so tightly that she can no longer get it open.
“It was just scary,” she said. “The first thing I thought was earthquake, but it didn’t keep on shaking. … There was that big boom and then there were smaller booms going on, off and on.”
Eric Schlierman, who lives a half-mile away, said the explosion woke him from a deep sleep.
“Sound asleep, yep – dead out – and then just a kaboom,” he said. “I was thinking high explosives of some kind.”
Another neighbor, Zach Lent, says, “My bed shook, and my house shook, and I was like, ‘Whoa what was that?’ … I mean it shook everything. It was, it was weird.”
Another witness told KOMO News that he heard faint cries after the blast, but he was unable to get there due to the intensity of the fire.
Coworkers at the Bethel Kitsap Bank branch where Maria worked for over 22 years were mourning her loss.
“We’re heartbroken,” said Shannon Childs. “She was a real team player; she was a delightful individual. Our thoughts and prayers are with her wonderful family and friends.”
The cause of the blast has not yet been determined. Kitsap County sheriff’s detectives have requested assistance from the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives in investigating the explosion.
The force of the blast scattered large volumes of debris – shingles, insulation and siding – all through the woods outside the home — some found 30 feet high in trees.
“It’s a tough investigation,” said Kitsap County Fire Marshall David Lynam. “The pieces that once were in the house are now scattered pretty much over an acre. So first we have to identify what they are, what we’re looking at, where it started from and how it came to be, where we find it… and that’s pretty detailed work.”
Some local roads are closed to traffic in the area near the explosion until further notice. School officials said Mullenix Ridge Elementary is scheduled to open despite the damage to the windows.