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Explosions Level Apartment Building

The nation

Nine are hurt and one is missing in the Phoenix blasts, which police treat as a criminal case.

March 20, 2003|From Associated Press

PHOENIX — Two explosions and a fire leveled an eight-unit apartment building early Wednesday, injuring nine people. One person remained unaccounted for.

Authorities had not determined the cause of the 1 a.m. blasts, but Assistant Fire Chief Bob Khan said the first explosion originated in the apartment of a caretaker. Dale Wayne Barry, 49, was missing, but it was unclear whether he was in the rubble.

Barry had been served with an eviction notice for failing to pay rent, court records show.

Mayor Skip Rimsza said officials were conducting a criminal investigation into the explo- sion.

A 35-year-old man was listed in critical condition Wednesday with trauma and burn injuries, said Maricopa Medical Center spokeswoman Sarah Harper.

A 36-year-old woman was in fair condition.

Seven others were hospitalized with injuries that weren't considered life-threatening, Khan said.

The explosions occurred five minutes apart and leveled the two-story building, leaving only parts of three cinder block walls standing.

"The walls blew out and the roof just pancaked right down," fire Capt. Mark Angle said.

Nearby buildings were rocked by the blasts, which shattered 50 to 60 windows and catapulted bricks onto cars in the parking lot.

Investigators, including a team from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and Explosives, were expected to search the area after a structural engineer declared it safe.

A Southwest Gas spokesman said crews found no underground gas leaks.

Shauntia Stuart, who lives in the apartment complex, said she was awakened by the sound of the explosion.

"All I could see was a big ball of fire," she said.

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