Texas Home Explosion Critically Injures Three

June 12--Investigators with the Texas Railroad Commission are looking into what triggered an explosion Tuesday morning that critically injured two adults and an infant boy at a home in rural Montgomery County.

The explosion at about 8:15 a.m. leveled the wood-framed home on F.M. 1486 in Dobbin, located approximately halfway between Conroe and Navasota and about 45 minutes from College Station.

It sent debris flying throughout the area, creating a debris field the size of a football field, and was felt as far away as Willis, 20 miles east, Montgomery County Fire Marshal Jimmy Williams said.

Plantersville residents, about five miles away, heard a "loud bomb noise," Grimes County Sheriff Don Sowell said.

An 8-month-old baby, his 58-year-old grandmother and 65-year-old aunt were in the home at the time of the explosion. All three were taken to the hospital via helicopter -- the baby to UTMB-Galveston with critical injuries and burns, while his grandmother and aunt were taken to Memorial Hermann Hospital in Houston with life-threatening burns. Williams said they were all in critical condition.

The cause of the explosion has yet to be determined, but investigators suspect "a build-up of flammable gases in or around the home," specifically liquid petroleum gas (LPG), known as propane, according to a press release from Williams' office.

"In a city like College Station or Bryan, you have a natural gas system, and it's piped into your home," Williams said. "The only difference here in the country is that you don't have those types of systems, so each individual home has its own tank and its own plumbing in the house."

Triangle B Corp., a company based out of Richards in Grimes County, is the propane provider for the home, according to Ramona Nye, spokesperson for the Texas Railroad Commission, which oversees LPG.

The company could not be reached for comment late Tuesday.

While "a propane explosion is a rare occurrence in Texas," there are ways to prevent them in the home, Nye said in an email.

Homeowners can determine if they have a gas leak by listening for the sound of gas escaping a valve or pipe or by smell because "propane that is used for heating, cooking and to fuel vehicles is required to be odorized," she said.

"If homeowners smell propane in their home, they should immediately extinguish all cigarettes and other sources of ignition; leave the house and move away without using any electric switches, appliances, thermostats or telephones," Nye said. "Once outside, they should close the gas shut-off valve on their outside propane tank or cylinder by turning it to the right. Once they have left the area, they should call their propane supplier or local fire department from a cellphone or neighbor's telephone."

A 1992 gas explosion in Wesley, seven miles south of Brenham, killed three people, injured several others and caused an estimated $9 million in damages when LPG escaped a salt dome, an underground storage cavern.

Investigators do not suspect a salt dome caused Tuesday's explosion.

The Dobbin explosion has "rattled this little community" of 300 residents, Williams said.

"Members of this family have been in the Dobbin community as long as there's been a Dobbin community, and they're a well-known family. ... Everyone here is either a family member or knows a family member," he added.

Stuart Villanueva contributed to this story.

Copyright 2013 - The Eagle, Bryan, Texas

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