Cause of ‘doomsday’ bunker explosion near Talco ruled undetermined

Cause of ‘doomsday’ bunker explosion near Talco ruled undetermined
The entrance of an underground bunker in Red River County where an explosion killed three people in October 2019. The bunker's “escape hatch door had been blown off its hinges, according to the State Fire Marshal's Office. (Source: Texas State Fire Marshal's Office)

RED RIVER COUNTY, Texas (KLTV) - The State Fire Marshal’s Office has released its investigation report regarding the explosion that killed three people in an underground “doomsday” bunker near Talco.

The roof of an underground bunker in Red River County where an explosion killed three people in October 2019. The explosion caused the roof to split, according to the State Fire Marshal's Office. (Source: Texas State Fire Marshal's Office)
The roof of an underground bunker in Red River County where an explosion killed three people in October 2019. The explosion caused the roof to split, according to the State Fire Marshal's Office. (Source: Texas State Fire Marshal's Office) (Source: Texas State Fire Marshal's Office)

The report by Sgt. Paul Steelman, released to KLTV on Wednesday, shows he was unable to determine a cause or origin of the October explosion that happened on Private Road 5042 in Red River County.

The explosion was reported on Oct. 13, 2019, after a family member went to check on a loved one they couldn’t reach, but officials believe the explosion happened the night before it was reported.

The victims, Michael Bower, Perry Fetterolf and Misty Marple, “suffered burns and numerous lacerations, blunt force trauma and possible fractures as a result of the explosion," according to the report.

Bower’s wife told Steelman the purpose of the shelter was to be prepared for “doomsday” and that the property was going to be a place to live “off the grid," according to the report.

In the report, Steelman describes the bunker as being a 40-foot by 8-foot, single-entrance steel structure buried 10 to 12 feet below the surface. Investigators were able to identify a bathroom, kitchen area and bunk beds.

A notebook found inside contained writing “indicating some kind of problem with the government,” the report shows.

Steelman describes the damage to the bunker, including "large chunks of concrete which had been blown out from around the sides or the top of the bunker,” debris in the trees surrounding the bunker, “fairly large pieces of concrete” that were found several feet from the blast site, the steel roof was split open, and the bunker’s “escape hatch door had been blown off its hinges” and was found about 50-feet away.

An air quality test showed the “presence of propane gas inside the bunker”, according to the report. The propane was being fed into the bunker from an above-ground propane tank.

A representative from Cooper Propane and an investigator from the Texas Railroad Commission examined the propane tank and line and found evidence of a “substantial leak.” But the report shows they were unable to determine if that leak was the cause of the explosion or caused by the explosion.

The report shows a solar panel provided electricity to the bunker. No “formal air conditioning or heating unit” was found.

Several agencies were involved in the response and investigation, including the Red River County Sheriff’s Office, the Red River Office of Emergency Management, the Bogata Volunteer Fire Department, the Longview Fire Department and the Texas Railroad Commission.

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