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Private fire investigator looking for cause of Garfield Heights explosion

Investigator marked debris in neighboring yards
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Posted at 4:32 PM, Jun 14, 2022

GARFIELD HEIGHTS, Ohio — A private fire investigator is looking for answers where a house exploded in Garfield Heights, killing three people.

Relatives and neighbors also want to know exactly what happened.

The State Fire Marshal is going through the process of elimination but hasn't ruled out gas as a cause.

A metal fence is keeping people out of the rubble at what was a brick home on East 81st Street.

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A fire investigator with a company called Donan surveyed the rubble and areas around where the house once stood.

April Johnson, who lives next door, says she was in her backyard when the house exploded last Saturday.

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“It was so loud and I remember we shook and it felt like an earthquake,” said Johnson.

Johnson was with her daughter and friends when they heard one pop. She thought it was a large firework and then heard a second pop ten minutes later.

She remembers seeing her neighbor walk into the house less than a minute before it exploded.

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

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Gerald Bateman, one of three people killed in the Garfield Heights house explosion Saturday.

A private company looked for clues in the pit of the rubble and outskirts, dropping numbered markers across the street and in Johnson’s yard.

An insurance adjuster logged the damage to Johnson’s house.

Johnson says they ran for cover after the blast when debris rained down on their backyard umbrellas and rooftop. She says the blast cracked her concrete patio.

Johnson believes if it weren’t for her trees as barriers, things could have been much different.

“That was too close to home, it’s surreal, I can’t believe it. I’m just glad me and my daughter are still here; it could have been far worse,” said Johnson.

Johnson says a fire investigator will be out Thursday to check her house, as she is concerned about her gas lines, and there are no answers yet as to what happened next door.

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

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