Investigators suspect propane could be cause of deadly Port Orchard home explosion

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PORT ORCHARD, Wash. – Investigators spent Wednesday sifting through the wreckage and debris of a Port Orchard home and now believe they may have pinpointed a cause for the huge blast that killed the two occupants and could be heard up to 20 miles away.

The Kitsap County Fire Marshal said his team of investigators focused on the propane used to heat the victims' home. The two killed in the explosion were officially identified by the Kitsap County coroner as William Burch McDonald, 70, and his wife, Maria Cruz McDonald, 65.

Meanwhile, the community is still trying to come to grips with what happened.

“I saw her picture on the TV,” said Pat Gerardo who knows Maria. “I couldn’t believe it.”

The memorial continues to grow at the Kitsap Bank branch where Maria worked for more than 20 years.

Gerardo brought flowers on Wednesday to remember her friend.

“That’s what Port Orchard is about,” said Gerardo. “We’re a very close community and when something like this happens you know the community comes together and grieves together.”

”She had a nickname for everybody, she had a real outgoing personality,” said Kitsap Bank CEO Steven Politakis. “She was looking forward to going on vacation this weekend.”

Police said both Maria and Bill died after their rural Port Orchard home exploded early Tuesday morning.

The ATF and county officials continue combing through the 1-acre debris field.

County Fire Marshal David Lynam said each time he passes through, he discovers something he hadn’t seen before.

“We believe somehow there was a propane leak and that became ignited,” said Lynam. “We haven’t identified the specific cause of that, but that’s principally what we’re centering our investigation on.”

The blast also blew out windows at Debbie Lear’s home.

The glass can be replaced, but the loss of the McDonalds has shattered the peace of this tight-knit community.

“There was a loss of life of really decent people, and they’re gone and it hurts,” she said. “It bothers all of us.”

Debris also fell all the onto Jessica Ritter’s house and yard, including several McDonald family photographs.

Jessica said she gave them to police, who then returned them to the family.

She hopes the recovered memories will help both the McDonalds family and her own community to begin healing.

“A piece of paper, you know?” said Ritter. “The whole place exploded but those memories were mostly intact. I thought that was kind of a miracle.”

Investigators still have much work to complete before releasing any findings. On Wednesday, they mapped out the debris field and searched for an ignition source.

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