Event timeline paints picture of landslide, deadly explosion at Watauga Co. home

Event timeline paints picture of landslide, deadly explosion at Watauga Co. home

WATAUGA COUNTY, NC (WBTV) - A deadly explosion happened following a gas leak triggered by a landslide at a home in Watauga County last Wednesday, emergency officials say.

Officials say they responded to an explosion at a home in the 200 block of Pine Ridge, where they found James "Jim" Lanford and Audri Lanford dead among debris from the home.

A landslide reportedly happened first, which impacted the LP gas regulator that serviced the home. Officials say a strong odor of LP gas was detected at the home around 2:30 p.m.

Around 4:30 p.m., James Landford called Suburban Propane, who assisted him in turning off the LP supply at the tank. The Landfords then attempted to ventilate the home of the fumes.

The power to a backup water heater was turned on around 5:08 p.m., officials say, and an explosion at the home was reported minutes later - at 5:11 p.m.

"Due to the complexity of the investigation, unstable conditions, and complications of severe weather, the investigation was lengthy," emergency officials say. "There have been many theories and much speculation about how this tragedy occurred."

Multiple agencies assisted in the deadly incident.

"Our condolences to the families and friends of the victims including the residents of the Heavenly Mountain Community," emergency officials said.

WBTV reached out to a natural gas provider to get a better understanding of what to do if you find yourself suspicious of a leak in your home.

Keith Napier, Director of Customer Contact Centers for Piedmont Natural Gas, gave three main red flags of a natural gas leak.

"One, is the smell... we add an odorant that smells like rotten eggs. The other thing is you can look in the area to see if anything looks unusual with the surroundings and then also, listen - if you hear a hissing sound or something where you would have a natural gas source," Napier said.

Napier also said that while natural gas itself is safe, if you are suspicious of a natural gas leak to leave it to the professionals.

"So if you were ever to smell natural gas, what you should do is leave the area, don't turn on or off anything that's electrical right there. Do not operate light switches, don't light a match or attempt to locate the source of the leak yourself," Napier said.

If you are suspicious of natural gas leak, contact your natural gas provider or call 911 immediately.

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