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Investigation Seeks Cause Of Deadly Explosion

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The two victims of Wednesday’s furniture store explosion in Wayne died of multiple injuries and their deaths were accidental, an official with the Wayne County Medical Examiner’s office said. 

Autopsies on 64-year-old James Zell of Westland and 54-year-old Leslie Machniak found they died from the collapse of Franks Furniture Store, and not from the fire.  Medical Examiner Albert Samuels says the the deaths were ruled accidental since investigators believe that a natural gas leak led to the explosion.

Two people, including the owner Paul Franks, remain hospitalized.  Franks is in critical condition, according to the University of Michigan Medical Center.  The second person was driving by the store when the blast occurred.  He is at Oakwood Annapolis hospital and was last listed in stable condition. 

An investigation into the deadly explosion was to begin Thursday afternoon.  Consumers Energy spokeswoman Debra Dodd said crews were in the area checking on two calls reporting a leak when the explosion happened around 9 a.m. Wednesday.  Dodd also said there was some damage to a two-inch gas line near the store on Wayne Road.

“The damaged portion of the main was removed, it will be sent for part of an investigation and inspection and that may turn up some clues as to what happened,” Dodd said during a mid-morning news conference.  

A temporary repair to the gas line was made overnight and a permanent fix was expected to be made later Thursday.

Dodd couldn’t comment on whether a furnace at the store was the cause of the explosion.   

Consumers Energy crews will be going into businesses and homes to make sure the area is safe.  Nine homeowners who were kept out of their homes overnight will be allowed to go back home, however those people are asked to go to the Wayne Fire Department on Wayne Road and get an escort back to their homes.

Federal, state and local investigations into the cause are expected to begin.  They will involve the local police and fire departments, Michigan Public Service Commission, Occupational Safety and Health Administration, and Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.  

The Environmental Protection Agency was monitoring the air and checking for asbestos.  Once given the okay, crews will begin clearing debris from the road. 

Wayne Road remains closed between Glenwood and Chestnut, but could reopen Thursday afternoon after all of the debris is moved off the roads.  Also the police chief is asking “curious” citizens to stay away from the site.  

The City Manager in Wayne, Robert English, thanked all of the area fire departments and even three recently laid off Wayne firefighters who responded to the scene to help. 

A state of emergency is in effect in the city.  Officials are hoping to receive financial aid from the state of Michigan to help pay for the cleanup.

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