Victim of explosion ID'd; funds sought for displaced family

Funds are being raised to assist the Haaland family, whose home was destroyed by an explosion on Monday. Photo courtesy of Haaland GoFun...

Funds are being raised to assist the Haaland family, whose home was destroyed by an explosion on Monday.
Photo courtesy of Haaland GoFundMe page

The Coroner's Office has identified a 31-year-old Murrieta man as the victim in Monday's deadly explosion and fire at a Murrieta residence. Meanwhile, a GoFundMe site has been established for the family that was unhurt but misplaced by the disaster in their home.

All this took place as more details emerged Tuesday on the extent of damage done by the blast.

Four houses in the area of Wooden Horse Trail and Spinning Wheel Drive have been red-tagged as unsafe for occupancy, Murrieta deputy fire chief David Lantzer told reporters on Tuesday. Many others have been yellow-tagged, meaning they may be occupied even though they suffered significant damage. Six displaced residents spent Monday night at an emergency shelter set up at Vista Murrieta High School, he said.

Authorities continued their investigation Tuesday into the explosion, which they said was related to a gas line that was punctured during work being performed by a contractor at the home. Randon Lane, public information officer for the Southern California Gas Company, said the gas line was an underground line leading to a gas meter at the right front corner of the house.

"The line was punctured in some form or fashion," Lane said. "It isn't clear whether it was from digging, drilling, or what."

Lane also confirmed something reported a day earlier -- that the contractor hadn't called 811 to ask Gas Company officials to identify the location of buried gas lines before digging, as required by law.

"We are a strong family, but this takes a very big toll on us," Lane said. "And I'm sure every person from SoCal Gas will tell you to call 811, which is a free service to residents and contractors. As we saw yesterday, not calling can have devastating consequences."

Lantzer said investigators had not determined what sparked the leaking gas to start the fire. An engine crew was on the scene as well as Gas Company workers responding to the report of a gas leak when the explosion took place.

"An explosion is always a possibility; that's why our firefighters dress the way they do," Lantzer said. "But I've worked 1,000 or more of these, and it doesn't usually happen. We're not certain of the circumstances that caused this."

The identity of the contractor has not been released. Lane said only that it is a solar company. Lt. Ron Driscoll of the Murrieta Police Department said it is possible criminal charges could be filed, but that it was too early in the investigation to make that kind of conclusion.

The Gas Company employee killed in the explosion was identified as Wade Kilpatrick, a construction technician who had been with the company for 11 years.

"In any instance like this, there are a lot of emotions people go through," Lane said. "When you look at something like this that could've been prevented, I'm sure there will be many emotions felt."

A GoFundMe site has been established for the family of military serviceman Alex Haaland and his wife Alexis, who had moved into the home less than a month ago. Alexis and her two children were evacuated from the home by a fire marshal after the gas leak, but Alexis was allowed to go back inside to retrieve some personal items when the explosion took place, she told an NBC TV affiliate in San Diego. She received only minor injuries.

"The Haaland family recently relocated on orders to San Diego and bought their dream home in Murrieta," states the GoFundMe page. "Sadly, yesterday there was a gas leak and explosion that completely leveled out their house. Everything they own was lost and with two small children, I’d love if our community, family and friends can help in this time. Any donation helps. Let’s rally around them and show them how loved they are!"

By 9 p.m. Tuesday, more than $13,000 had been donated. The GoFundMe site can be accessed at the link below:

Donation for Haaland's

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