GARFIELD HEIGHTS, Ohio — A preliminary investigation by the Division of the State Fire Marshal's Fire and Explosion Investigation Bureau (FEIB) into a Garfield Heights home explosion last month indicates the "probable" cause of the explosion was the manufacturing of fireworks inside the house.
On June 12, the home, located in the 4900 block of East 81st Street, exploded and killed three people who had been inside. They were later identified as Donald Malinowski, 64, Gerald Bateman, 57, and Cassandra Bateman, 37.
"They were homemade fireworks, but these type of devises are considered explosives," FEIB Assistant Chief Ray McCarthy said. "It happens every year, its very dangerous."
On July 8, firefighters working with an insurance company found "cardboard tubes, consistent with the manufacturing of explosive devices" in the home's basement. A few days later, authorities from the FEIB went back to the property and located more than two dozen cardboard tubes, fuses, chemicals and other equipment "associated with the manufacturing of explosives."
"It’s part of our working hypothesis right now that he was making and selling them," McCarthy said about the man they believe to be responsible, who died in the explosion.
The deaths have caused his team to warm consumers that they need to be buying your holiday supplies from professionals.
"The materials recovered from the scene are used in the manufacturing of M-series type explosive devices, which contain higher amounts of explosive powders than what is typically found in consumer-grade fireworks," said State Fire Marshal Forensic Lab Bureau Chief Chad Wissinger.
According to authorities, Dominion Energy did several tests to see if a gas leak caused the explosion but didn't find any evidence. The Ohio EPA also tested the area for methane gas with negative results, authorities said.
"This information, combined with evidence found at the scene and witness testimony, leads us to believe manufacturing of explosives is the cause of this explosion," said McCarthy.
Authorities are waiting on the final report from the medical examiner's office before an official cause of the explosion is ruled.
"Fire investigators say the official cause will remain undetermined pending the final report from the Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner, but the most probable cause is the manufacturing of explosives," authorities said.
Neighbors said they heard a pop and then what sounded like a large firework and then another pop. Minutes later the house exploded. The explosion was so strong it felt like an earthquake, one neighbor told News 5.
The daughters of one of the men killed in the explosion—Gerald Bateman—later spoke with News 5 about their farther, describing him as "kindhearted" and the best "girl dad." You can watch more from Bateman's family in the player below:
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