Deadly Columbia City building explosion caused by ‘unintentional natural gas leak,’ probe finds

Local News

COLUMBIA CITY, Ind. (WANE) — An investigation into a fatal explosion at a Columbia City building last month has found no foul play.

It was May 22 when a building at 515 N. Line St. on Columbia City’s north side exploded around 9 a.m. A man inside – 34-year-old Zachery Sparkman of LaOtto – was killed in the blast.

Since, multiple agencies including the Indiana State Fire Marshal’s Office, Indiana State Police and the Whitley County Coroner’s Office have probed the explosion to determine the cause.

On Tuesday, the findings were released: “the explosion was caused by an unintentional natural gas leak ignited by an independent ignition source.”

The state fire marshal’s office said tests of the natural gas lines in the building found “several” connections had minor leaks that were “probably” from the explosion and fire, but the “most significant leak” in the building was found in a gas valve on the back wall of the building – where Sparkman was.

Sparkman was a known smoker, the state fire marshal’s office added.

The official manner and cause of Sparkman’s death have not yet been determined.

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