Only on FOX 17: Independent investigation underway into massive propane explosion

Posted at 6:26 PM, Jan 08, 2016
and last updated 2016-01-08 18:26:37-05

HOLLAND, Mich. – An independent investigation is underway looking into what specific component failed causing the propane explosion at a warehouse property near Hamilton early December.

Kristopher and Natalie TenHarmsel told FOX 17 they are thankful to be alive. Holland residents and card-carrying medical marijuana caregiver and patient, they rented a warehouse at Storage Unlimited on 60th Street in Manlius Township in Allegan County.

“I’ve lost everything before in life, I’ve had misfortune before, this is a big misfortune, but life carries on and everybody that was around is okay,” said Kris TenHarmsel.

That December explosion, as FOX 17 reported, was massive with neighbors who said they felt it for miles: one renter was injured, and his dog was killed. The blast centered near several legal medical marijuana grow sites, to which facility owner Jeff King said all growers were in compliance.

This blast damaged neighboring homes. The TenHarmsels said those homeowners’ insurance companies hired an independent company to investigate what caused the propane tank to explode.

The TenHarmsels cannot publicly share the specifics of the investigation at this point, but said the results would determine the lawsuit they are considering filing.

Kris said if he was any earlier to work Dec. 3, he believes he may not have lived to tell about it.

“I was actually at the hardware store running late, and thank God,” he said. “If I had been on time that day, I would have likely triggered the explosion.”

He feels he could have triggered the explosion had he simply opened the property door, where police say propane gas—used to heat the warehouse space—had filled the room. The TenHarmsels said the blast alone cost them at least $200,000 of investment, but just as hard-hitting is the loss they said their patients faced.

“Our passion, everything that we’ve worked for, the people that we’ve tried to help along the way, they lost out too,” said Natalie TenHarmsel. “It didn’t affect just us.”

Friday at the property not much had changed other than icy remnants with questions unanswered.

“I know the likelihood of where the failure point is, it is being investigated,” said Kris.

When FOX 17 asked the TenHarmsels whether this component they believe failed had anything to do with medical marijuana, Kris said, “No. This could have been a grill.”

“This could have happened to anyone, anywhere, in any situation: it could be your home, it could be your place of work,” said Natalie.

For now the TenHarmsels are working to get back on their feet to continue to legally grow for their patients, but say this situation points to the bigger issue of the state’s medical marijuana laws. They are hopeful for legal dispensaries in Michigan.

“The state laws are so fuzzy, and it’s county to county, and it’s really frustrating,” said Kris. “It would be nice if the laws were more clearly defined, and also if dispensaries were legal.”

Stay with FOX 17 for updates on this investigation and possible litigation as to what actually caused the explosion.