2 men sought in Perryville explosion

July 18, 1992|By Alan J. Craver | Alan J. Craver,Staff Writer

The state fire marshal's office has issued arrest warrants for two Florida men who investigators say improperly disconnected a gas-operated pizza oven from a Perryville restaurant, triggering an explosion that caused $10 million in damage and killed one woman in July 1991.

Investigators would not release the names of the men -- charged with misdemeanors for violating the state fire-prevention code -- until they are served with the warrants, which were issued Monday.

The July 6, 1991, explosion occurred in the Broad Street Restaurant in the 300 block of Broad St.,the main thoroughfare of the Cecil County town of 2,500 people 38 miles northeast of Baltimore. The explosion leveled three buildings, leaving about 100 people homeless in the quiet Susquehanna River town.

The two men allegedly disconnected a propane gas-operated pizza oven from its copper supply line to remove the oven from the out-of-business sub shop, Deputy Fire Marshal Bob Thomas said. The gas line was not closed off once the oven was removed.

"By not capping that gas line off, it allowed the free flow of propane into the building," Mr. Thomas said.

If convicted of the charges, each man faces a fine up to $1,000 and a sentence of up to 10 days in jail.

However, it's uncertain when the men, who live in Vero Beach, Fla. but are from of Rising Sun, will be served with the arrest warrants because the fire marshal's office will not extradite them for misdemeanor charges, Mr. Thomas said.

"We feel they will be coming back at some point because they have family in the area," he said, noting that the men are related to Wayne Wright, the former owner of the restaurant.

The charges were filed after a year-long investigation that included interviews of witnesses, inspections of the explosion site, and examination of evidence collected at the site, Mr. Thomas said.

The last people known to have entered the eatery at 359 Broad Street were employees of Mr. Wright, a Rising Sun painting contractor who had rented the shop, officials said in reports released after the explosion. They were there July 2, four days before the explosion.

Mr. Wright said he rented the shop in April 1991 and closed up shop June 30, the Sunday before the blast.

Residents who lived near the restaurant smelled gas the night before the explosion, but no one reported it to Cecil County fire or gas company officials, investigators said.

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