Daily Progress, Jacksonville, TX

January 2, 2013

Cherokee County home explosion kills two

State fire investigator called in to helped determine cause

Ben Tinsley
Jacksonville Daily Progress

CHEROKEE COUNTY — Two people believed to be a local married couple were killed Sunday morning during a house explosion along County Road 4706, south of Troup, authorities said.

The cause of the 11:30 a.m. explosion at the home in the 1100 block of County Road 4706 remained under investigation Monday.  Fire departments from North Cherokee County, Troup, Arp and Bullard were called to the scene to fight the fire Sunday.

Authorities do not currently believe the explosion to be the result of foul play. But an investigator from the office of State Fire Marshal Chris Connealy has been called in to determine exactly what happened.

Meanwhile, the deceased couple, tentatively identified as  Jerry Lynn Vessels, 68, and Madeleine Otis Vessels, 66, have been sent for autopsy to a forensic medical management service by Justice of Peace Philip Grimes of Cherokee County's Precinct 3.

Jerry Vessels' brother was the first person to arrive on the scene after the explosion, Cherokee County Sheriff James Campbell said Monday.

"The brother lives a short distance away," Campbell explained. "After he heard the explosion, he took his four-wheeler to the top of the hill to find the house fully involved in flames – fire coming out the top and bottom. Parts of the house had been blown away. The second floor collapsed down on the first floor. The bottom walls were all that were still standing."

The scene of the explosion remained cordoned off by crime scene tape Monday as the state fire investigator continued to investigate. While it is not yet clear what that cause is, the sheriff noted that Vessels did keep propane in the home.

"But we're not saying that is what caused the explosion because we don't know what happened at this time," Campbell said Monday.

The couple's two grown children quickly traveled to Troup after being told of the explosion. The representative from the state fire marshal's office arrived Sunday evening to start the investigation, returning on Monday morning to continue, authorities said.

"This may take days or weeks or we could find out what happened right before the investigator leaves," the sheriff said. "We don't suspect foul play at all but we certainly want to find out what happened."