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Charges still possible after probe of Bath explosion

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Charges still possible after probe of Bath explosion

BATH — A manslaughter charge has been ruled out after the state fire marshal's office completed its investigation of a Bluff Road apartment-building explosion that killed a 64-year-old woman on Feb. 12.

But Sgt. Ken Grimes, the supervisor in charge of the case, Wednesday said other charges are still possible.

"After consultation with the local district attorney's office and the attorney general's office," Grimes said, "at this particular time there is not sufficient evidence to proceed with a manslaughter (charge)."

Meanwhile, the family of the dead woman, Dale Ann Fussell, continues to seek more information about the cause of the blast, with particular questions about a building heater, according to their lawyer.

"We've never suggested that anybody was criminally responsible; that's not to suggest that ultimately we won't prove that somebody was careless in causing this to happen, and we are fully confident we will," said Terry Garmey, the Portland attorney representing Fussell's family.

Grimes noted that the Oil and Solid Fuels Board, an agency of the Maine Department of Professional and Financial Regulation, is still conducting its investigation into the regulatory aspect of the matter.

After it completes that process, he said, "we will be meeting with them, and because they are not a law-enforcement organization ... if there are any charges to be brought for regulatory issues, that is something that we would facilitate for them."

Charges that come out of the process could be of a civil or criminal nature, but who would be charged remains uncertain, Grimes said.

The investigation is determining "if there are any violations that rise to the level of a court summons, and ... who would be responsible for those violations," he added.

Investigators previously determined a propane gas leak caused the building explosion at about 5 a.m. on Feb. 12. It leveled the duplex at 29-31 Bluff Road in the Atlantic Townhouse Apartment complex, killing Fussell and launching debris throughout the neighborhood.

The probe traced the explosion to a leak from a gas line connecting an outdoor propane tank to two gas heaters, according to Steve McCausland, spokesman for the Maine Department of Public Safety.

McCausland said the leak was in an outside wall of the building, and that the fumes probably seeped into a crawl space beneath the building, where they were ignited by an unknown source.

Garmey previously said the heater in Fussell's apartment may have been replaced the night before the explosion. It's important that Fussell's family get whatever measure of justice is available to them, he said.

He added Wednesday that "at this point we're not going to point our finger at any particular party. I think that the facts, when they're fully explored and discovered, will lead us clearly like bread crumbs in a forest ... to our destination. We just don't know what that destination is, yet."

Alex Lear can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 113 or alear@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @learics.