Investigators: Evidence indicates KC home blast caused by illegal fireworks production

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The work to determine a cause of the blast that critically injured two men in a Kansas City home in the 9100 block of Tennessee Avenue is complete. Authorities say someone was making illegal fireworks the basement and that is what caused the massive explosion.

It left 52-year-old Wiley Mitchell critically injured as well as his friend and sent four others, including two children, to the hospital.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) and bomb squad investigators were tagging and bagging items pulled from the rubble into evidence bags, which was a clue that the explosion may have involved something criminal. One piece of evidence that looked like the top of a five-gallon bucket was blown up.

“For the explosive experts and the bomb and arson investigators, they saw something significant in that or they wouldn’t be taking it,” John Ham with the ATF said.

Investigators say they have pinpointed the blast spot as in the basement on the north end of the house that sustained most of the damage, where Mitchell was found and rescued by neighbors.

Investigators say they began looking into the possibility that fireworks were being made after interviewing witnesses and their initial investigation quickly ruled out some common causes of a blast like this.

“Natural gas, there has been no propane involvement, there have been a lot of suggestions that maybe there was a meth lab or something like that and clearly we’ve seen that, but it doesn’t fit with this at all,” Ham said.

Mitchell’s mother said her son may have been trying to clean a clogged drain, which was also ruled out.

“For a drain cleaner or any kind of household chemical to cause this amount of destruction seems highly unlikely to us,” Ham said.

Investigators say among the rubble, they found all of the components to support their belief that this explosion was caused by making illegal fireworks. The evidence will be taken to the crime lab for testing.

“With the amount of destruction in the house there could be all sorts of things that we just don’t know what they are, ‘cause the canisters or whatever they came in have been destroyed,” Ham said.

Making any sort of homemade explosive is illegal, so this is now a criminal investigation. Although still in critical condition, Mitchell is still alive; his mother says he is stable.


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