ATF finds fireworks components, also questions owner of building leveled in Grandview explosion

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GRANDVIEW, Mo. -- Fireworks components were found at the site of the explosion in Grandview on Tuesday. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms had information that the owner of the lawn mower repair shop was also reloading ammunition at that location, which is legal.

When investigators were digging through the rubble of the building, they discovered fireworks components. If fireworks were being made there, that act is against the law.

"What we discovered was the evidence of the manufacturing of fireworks. We found containers that would have the chemicals necessary to do that we have also found some other evidence that leads us in that direction," said John Ham with the ATF.

Ham says they are still trying to figure out what ignited the highly combustible material.

The building where the explosion happened was destroyed and dozens of windows in a nearby apartment complex were shattered. Besides the property damage, this explosion put the lives of firefighters who showed up to the fire scene in jeopardy.

"I liken it to being in an accident and you are T-boned from the side and you are not expecting it. I mean just the impact like that was insane," said Grandview Assistant Fire Chief Rob Stottlemyre.

He and two pumpers drove up to get in position to fight the fire, and as Stottlemyre was pulling around the front of the building, that's when the explosion happened.

"One big thunderous boom. A lot of concussion to it. By the grace of God we are still here," said Stottlemyre. "There were three or fourĀ of us that were close enough that it could have killed us or hurt us really bad."

Ham says an explosion of this magnitude would be the result of several pounds of explosive material. It may take longer than usual to come to a conclusion about this explosion, because of the destruction it caused.

The owner of the business, James Witt, showed up on scene in the late afternoon Wednesday. Witt was questioned by the ATF, but Ham would not say if Witt was cooperative during the questioning of fireworks components found in the wreckage of the explosion. All Ham would say is that Witt showed up and was free to leave when he wanted, and did so.

There have been no criminal charges filed at this point, and the ATF has not officially classified this as a criminal investigation.

The possession of individual components of fireworks is not illegal, it is the manufacturing of then m that is against the law. The question of whether illegal fireworks were being made in that building is something the ATF will sort out as part if its investigation.