Woman dies after explosion near South Haven, family says

Van Buren County

SOUTH HAVEN, Mich. (WOOD) — An explosion that leveled a home near South Haven has claimed the life of a woman and put her husband in the hospital.

Colleen Van Wagner died Wednesday morning from injuries she suffered in the Tuesday explosion, family members told News 8.

Her husband Bob VanWagner remained hospitalized Wednesday.

Debris from the blast on 2nd Avenue near 71 1/2 Street in South Haven Township was thrown across the street. Some of it landed in the trees.

“I honestly didn’t think it was that loud but you could feel the boom, the percussion, the base of it,” recalled Aaron Pressley, who lives across the street.

Pressley ran to the end of the driveway after feeling the rumble. What he saw stopped him in his tracks.

“The whole house is flat. The whole house is gone,” Pressley described. “You could hear gas and (see) 15- to 20-foot flames off the front, northwest corner. “

He then went to work. First, he found the liquid propane tank.

“You could hear it pushing gas out at a heavy rate. Then I jumped through the fence on top of that, flipped the lid open, turned off the gas,” Pressley said.

While flames spread through the debris and choking smoke blanketed where the home had stood, Pressley found Colleen Van Wagner first and pulled her from the wreckage.

Heat continued to build as conditions deteriorated.

“I almost thought about not going back because it was getting really hot and the fire was spreading further towards the south side of the house,” Pressely told News 8.”

As another neighbor joined the rescue effort, Pressley spotted Bob VanWagner about 6 feet from where his wife was found.

“He had a wrought iron fence rail and a bunch of siding and stuff on top of his torso, so I had to pick that up and throw a bunch of stuff off of him,” Pressley said.

On Wednesday, investigators combed the scene looking for answers. All indications are that the explosion was caused by a gas leak. The challenge is finding what cracked or failed that would have caused the gas to build up inside the house.

It’s not clear if either victims knew there was a leak. Another gas called mercaptan is added to propane and natural gas, giving them a rotten egg smell.

“Certain instances, that smell could be filtered out by the ground, possibly. Sometimes people can’t detect that with their nose,” South Haven Area Emergency Services Director Brandon Hin said.

For the price of a smoke or CO detector, you can pick up an alarm that will monitor for gas.

“Having a detector in the home, having your appliances and lines inspected on a regular basis and just being aware,” Hinz said. “If you have even an inkling that you might be smelling gas, call 911, call the gas company. We’ll be more than happy to come out. We have four gas detectors that we can monitor if you’re not sure. We’d rather be safe than sorry.”

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Top Stories On WOODTV.com

Know something newsworthy? Report It!