Clue to cause of KC house explosion might be buried deep in debris

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) returned to a severely damaged home in the 9100 block of Tennessee Ave., Friday, trying to determine what caused an explosion there Wednesday evening.

Crews were called out to the explosion at about 7 p.m. Wednesday and had to fight the fire from the outside because the explosion knocked the home off its foundation, making it dangerous to enter.

The unstable structure continues to be a challenge.

ATF investigators took a 360 degree panoramic photograph of the home for record-keeping Friday morning.  Heavy equipment was brought in to remove the roof. Much of the home will have to be deconstructed and the photograph will help them recreate the scene. This would be especially important if there was a criminal element to the explosion.

"In this explosion, as is typical with explosions, what was on the first floor has dropped to the basement when the structure gave way. And so we are going through what is down in the basement, finding what belonged on the first floor, removing that, and going through that, and then when we're done with that process, we'll start going through what was in the basement," said John Ham, ATF.

Ham said it's clear to investigators that the seed of the blast was somewhere on the northern side of the house with the most damage.

FOX 4's Rob Collins asked investigators if the home may have contained a meth lab, as meth labs are known to frequently lead to explosions.

We were told that it was 'highly unlikely', although it continues to be investigated.  Investigators say the meth lab would had to be astronomical in size to cause such a large explosion.

MGE was called to the scene to check for a possible gas leak, but none was found.

Investigators say they are going through the debris to put the pieces together and find the cause. It can be a tedious process but must be done correctly.

"You could be looking for something very small and you can see the amount of debris we're going through, so we go slowly, we go very methodically because we just don't want to miss anything. We get one shot at this and so we want to do it right," Ham said.

KCPD’s bomb and arson is also investigating the incident.

Two men remained in the hospital Friday.

Wiley Mitchell, Jr., 52, was likely at the epicenter of the blast and remained in critical condition, suffering severe burns and amputations.  Mitchell's mother said she believes the explosion had something to do with Mitchell trying to fix a sink that was clogged.

FOX 4 will continue to follow this story.

Earlier report:

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