Police: Fatal Thornton house explosion caused by intentionally-disconnected gas line

50-year-old man died in June blast

THORNTON, Colo. - A Thornton house explosion that killed a resident last month was the result of an intentional act and was not an accident.

The startling revelation was made Wednesday night by Thornton Police Chief Randy Nelson during a briefing for neighbors who live around the house that exploded on June 17, at 13072 Monroe Dr.

The blast leveled the home, killing 59-year-old Gary Lee Pine, a resident of the home.

Nelson told neighbors Wednesday night that a flexible gas line was intentionally removed and that natural gas was flowing into the house for one-and-a-half to two hours prior to the explosion.

7NEWS reporter Marc Stewart asked if the ignition of the gas itself was intentional.

“At this stage in the investigation, we don’t what specifically ignited the gas,” said Chief Nelson.

He said investigators are awaiting toxicology tests on Pine and he is the only person of interest in the case.

Thornton City Manager Jack Ethredge said five homes around the explosion site were vacated but are repairable and salvageable.

Many residents became concerned when an asbestos warning sign was placed on the fencing surrounding the blast site.

At a community meeting tonight, health officials felt the exposure risk was minimal.

"I live directly behind it.  Our house was tested we were fine.  Obviously my backyard is still full of debris.  I’m going to talk to them about that," said resident Kristy Branson.

Ethredge said five damaged homes in the areas can be repaired for inhabitation.  He said efforts are now underway with the property owner to clear the debris on the blast site.  If problems occur, the city legally can move in to remove and clear it.

Watch 7NEWS at 10 for a live update from Marc Stewart

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