Propane leak caused deadly explosion that leveled Mass. home, fire officials say

Judy Christensen was found dead inside her home by first responders after the explosion on April 14

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A leaking propane tank was the cause of a deadly explosion at a home in Berlin, Massachusetts, earlier this year, according to the State Fire Marshal's Office, which added that the fuel company responsible for the tank was found in violation of fire safety codes.

A 79-year-old woman was killed and another woman was rescued from the home on Pleasant Street on April 14 after the leaking propane ignited, setting off the explosion and a fire.

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The woman who died was identified as Judy Christensen by the Worcester County District Attorney's Office. Her daughter, the woman who was rescued, suffered non-life-threatening injuries.

Christensen was well-known in her community and had just celebrated a birthday.

The explosion also caused damage to three neighboring homes and two vehicles. It took the Berlin Fire Department about an hour and a half to knock down the flames.

According to the fire marshal, residents called Knight Fuel Company the day before, when they smelled propane in the backyard near two 100-pound liquid propane cylinders. Fire officials say an employee came out and moved the leaking tank about 20 feet away from the home, but it continued to leak, the gas leaking into the basement through the house's fieldstone foundation. It is not clear what caused the gas to ignite, but it is not considered suspicious.

The Department of Fire Services determined that the company had several violations of the Massachusetts Comprehensive Fire Safety Code, including storing over 42 pounds of propane without a permit, failing to let the Berlin Fire Department know about the leaking tank, delivering out-of-date propane cylinders to the home, failing to let the homeowner know the tanks were out of date, and other issues.

When reached by phone Thursday afternoon an employee at Knight Fuel Company said they had no immediate comment.

The explosion and fire happened at a home on Pleasant Street in the Worcester County community.

The force of the explosion paired with the fire leveled the two-story home. Witnesses said at the time that it all happened very quickly.

“We heard an incredible bang that shook our house,” neighbor Mark Smith told NBC10 Boston back in April.

Smith said he couldn’t believe his eyes when he saw what was left of the home completely leveled and on fire.

“The house was... it was gone, instantly, there was debris all over the road,” Smith said.

Firefighters from Bolton, Clinton, Harvard, Hopkinton, Hudson, Marlborough, Northborough, Shirley, Sterling and Stow all helped fight the fire. West Boylston firefighters provided station coverage.

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