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Source: Man killed in Port Washington blast intentionally ignited it after fight with wife

The rubble left on Wednesday morning, Aug. 6,

The rubble left on Wednesday morning, Aug. 6, 2014, the day after a deadly explosion and fire at a home on Prospect Avenue in Port Washington. Credit: Kevin P. Coughlin

A man killed when a Port Washington garage blew up Tuesday night argued with his estranged wife before using a flammable liquid to intentionally trigger the explosion, a police source close to the investigation said Wednesday.

The husband and wife, who have not been named by authorities, were identified Wednesday by the source as Michael MacNeill, 48, and Angela Nisi-MacNeill, 39. They had argued Tuesday night before Nisi-MacNeill and the couple's 2-year-old daughter escaped the home on Prospect Avenue moments before a detached garage exploded, the source and police said.

The explosion, which jolted much of the waterfront hamlet Tuesday night, came shortly after Port Washington police officers arrived after a 911 call from the residence reported a domestic disturbance, Port Washington police said Wednesday.

The officers smelled gas and were evacuating the woman and child from the home, when a "detached garage exploded and burst into flames," Nassau police said in a statement.

Four firefighters and a Port Washington police officer sustained minor injuries, Nassau police said.

The body was found in the charred rubble of the garage, officials said.

Brian Waterson, assistant chief with the Port Washington Fire Department, said officials believe the blaze was "intentionally set with some sort of accelerant" and the garage exploded as the officers "were walking down the driveway."

The fire destroyed the garage and another structure at a neighboring house, Waterson said. A damaged home on Second Avenue abutting the back yard of the blast site was also condemned, he said.

The exploded garage is just up the hill from Manhasset Bay and a few blocks southwest of the hamlet's main business district. The blast, likened by some witnesses to a large bomb detonating, could be felt more than a mile away. It shattered windows of several homes and businesses in the area, and flames also damaged several cars, residents said.

MacNeill was a marketing and digital advertising professional whose online resume boasts of freelance jobs with The New York Times marketing department and Citibank.

He had a brush with the law March 21 when Port Washington police charged him with criminal mischief, court records show. MacNeill was riding a bicycle and allegedly got into a dispute with a driver in the roadway near his home after MacNeill refused to move over for traffic, the records show.

MacNeill picked up his bike and struck the victim's vehicle, causing $250 in damage, according to the records.

He listed his address at the time as the home where the explosion occurred, records show.

MacNeill's case was slated for dismissal on the condition he stayed out of trouble, officials said. His next court appearance was scheduled for Thursday.

A woman reached by phone in Bryantville, Massachusetts, who identified herself as a relative of MacNeill, said "he was a great dad and a very talented person . . . I don't know what caused this."

He loved his wife and daughter "more than anything," the relative said.

Vincent Cristiano, a Boston-based web designer, said he worked with MacNeill on a campaign for a restaurant company in 2011 and found him to be a "hard worker" and "nice guy."

"They seemed happy," Cristiano said of the family.

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