ST. CLAIR TWP. (WWJ/AP) – An 18-year-old Michigan resident and her 27-year-old brother died from trauma, not burns, when a massive bonfire built for her high school graduation party exploded over the weekend, according to preliminary information from autopsies performed Monday.
A report by St. Clair County Medical Examiner Daniel Spitz has determined the manner of death of Christopher Blewett was blunt trauma, involving the chest, primarily the heart. The manner of death of Savannah Blewett was blunt trauma to the head, including the face, primarily involving the brain. Toxicology results in the case are expected to be returned in approximately eight weeks.
Authorities said the bonfire exploded about 9:30 p.m. Saturday at Christopher Blewett’s home in St. Clair Township, about 50 miles northeast of Detroit. Witnesses told deputies the brother drenched the bonfire in gasoline, then invited his sister to set it afire.
“It’s an accident; this is not a situation where somebody … threw a 5-gallon can of gas on a bonfire with people sitting around. It was not something like that. This was strictly just a terrible accident,” said St. Clair County Sheriff Tim Donnellon. “It was meant to be a celebration that went terribly wrong.”
Donnellon said the Sheriff’s Office Fire Investigation Unit conducted an investigation at the scene of the explosion and found no criminal intent. He said the cause of the blast was determined to be too much gas being placed on the wood prior to ignition. The investigation has been closed.
Richard Hyslop said he and his wife, Elaine, had returned home from the graduation party when they heard the explosion, which rattled the windows of their house.
“We are very saddened,” the 87-year-old Hyslop told the Detroit Free Press. “She was a lovely girl. They are a very nice family.”
Josh Poisson, who lives across the road and watched the aftermath of the explosion from the end of his driveway, said the flames were 15 to 20 feet above Christopher Blewett’s house after the blast.
“I thought it was a propane tank,” Poisson told the newspaper. “The fire was so tall that it almost looked like the house was on fire. It’s so terrible that a good thing turned out to be a bad thing.”
Alcohol was served at the party, but Donnellon said there was no evidence that minors were drinking.
Savannah Blewett was “a really, really nice kid. It’s a huge loss definitely for her family and our school,” said St. Clair High School Principal Ronald Miller.
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