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Gas not ruled out as cause in deadly Garfield Heights house explosion

No apparent gas leak identified
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Posted at 4:53 PM, Jun 13, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-13 18:37:24-04

GARFIELD HEIGHTS, Ohio — There wasn’t an apparent gas leak but gas hasn’t been ruled out as what caused a house to explode in Garfield Heights killing three people.

The Division of State Fire Marshal identified the people who died as Gerald Bateman, Cassandra Bateman, and Donald Malinowski.

Investigators say nothing indicated anything criminal.

They’re still going through the process of elimination.

News 5 spoke with a woman who told us her name is Cierra and her father died in the explosion.

Cierra says she is numb right now and planning funerals for something that can’t be explained.

Cell phone video shows the intense fire Saturday evening. The flames were also captured on a Ring doorbell video from a home across 81st street.

Videos, investigators say, could be critical in determining a cause. They’re hoping to find more.

“Not a lot of explosive force and the debris did not fly very far; the adjoining houses or neighboring houses were damaged from the fire, not the explosion,” said State Fire Marshal investigator Jeff Koehn.

Susan Cromika lives next door. Her siding is melted and charred.

“We found it very odd, a brick house there’s no bricks around,” said Cromika.

Cromika wasn’t home at the time of the explosion but her dog was.

“When it exploded the fire went from that vent through the roof out this vent,” said Cromika.

Her Ring doorbell went off during a dinner out with neighbors. Other neighbors started calling her to tell her to come home.

“It hasn’t, it hasn’t hit home yet. As soon as we get more answers about what’ll happen to the house I don’t know,” said Cromika.

Cromika said damage from the blast is far more extensive than what you see on the outside. She can’t live in her house right now. Damage is estimated to be more than $100,000.

But the damage is the least of her worries right now.

“They were nice people, friendly and kept to themselves just no words,” said Cromika.

Koehn says they found the three people in the basement. Two had been on the first floor at the time.

He confirmed Malinowski was a mechanic who restored cars but most of the bodywork was done in the garage.

“There was no leak from the gas lines to the house from the street or from the house and garage; all of those lines were intact,” said Koehn.

One focus will be on the gas lines inside the house and the appliances. But Koehn says the damage is extensive.

The investigator says there’s no indication any appliances failed and amits they may never know the cause.

“The one daughter who does live there was home earlier that day and has been there since March and never smelled gas. And did not smell gas that day,” said Koehn. Before leaving for the funeral home, Cierra told News 5, that this makes people remember to keep loved ones close.

RELATED: 3 dead after Garfield Heights house explosion

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