By Nita Johnson
LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. — Smoke filled the air along Dorthea Road in southern Laurel County on Thursday following the explosion of a duplex, 10 miles south of London.
It was only after firefighters extinguished the flames that a badly burned body was discovered in a vehicle parked in a carport behind the house. Although the vehicle was completely incinerated and body was burned beyond recognition, interviews with another family member and the discovery of an I.D. determined the body was that of 29-year-old Neil Spitser of Dorthea Road, who lived in that side of the duplex.
A press release from the Laurel County Sheriff’s Office said the body was sent to Frankfort Friday for an autopsy to determine the cause of death.
The 9-1-1 call reached Laurel Dispatch Center around 11:15 a.m. when a meter reader from Kentucky Utilities witnessed the explosion. Emergency responders went immediately to the scene where they found the residence fully engulfed in flames. Bricks from the front and side of the duplex littered the yard as firefighters from West Knox and Lily Volunteer Fire Departments tried fruitlessly to stop the flames from spreading to the adjoining apartment. The impact of the explosion burned the grass in front of the house and along an embankment by another duplex. Neighbors who were home when the explosion occurred reported feeling their houses shake from the impact.
Firefighters continued to try to extinguish the flames from the explosion, spraying water into the smoldering roof of the adjoining apartment while bits of debris blew into the air. The charred studs gave way for large pieces of the remaining roof to fall, crashing near the firefighters as they sprayed water and searched for anyone who might have been inside the home.
The three male residents of the other side of the duplex arrived at the scene and watched helplessly as their home burned. One man calling out for his dogs who had been inside the house. Later, all three dogs were found safe.
Dorthea Road was blocked for several hours while emergency personnel continued their investigation and fire trucks from other departments arrived on the scene to refill the air tanks of firemen who continued to extinguish the flames in the residence.
Kentucky State Police Arson Investigator Brian Lewis was called to the scene to assist in determining the cause of the fire. Other agencies involved in the response and investigation included Camp Ground and Laurel County Volunteer Fire Departments and the London City Fire Department, London-Laurel County Rescue Squad, Ambulance Inc. of Laurel County, Laurel County EMS, Laurel County Emergency Management, Kentucky State Police State Fire Marshal and A.F.T. (Bureau of Alcohol, Firearms, and Tobacco), and the Laurel County Sheriff’s Office.
Laurel Sheriff’s Detective Charlie Loomis is heading the death investigation. Deputies Kevin Berry, John Inman, Shane Rice, Brandon Broughton and other sheriff’s personnel were also on the scene.
The investigation into the incident is being continued.
Funeral arrangements for Spitser were incomplete at press time on Friday and will be announced at a later date.