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Cops: Gas from propane tanks sparked home explosion

Suffolk County Fire and Arson investigator at the

Suffolk County Fire and Arson investigator at the house that exploded on Prospect Drive in Brentwood. (Aug. 15, 2012) Credit: John Roca

The explosion at a Brentwood home that killed a toddler inside and injured 17 others took place after propane gas from exterior tanks flowed into the house, a top police official said Thursday.

The gas from the two 200-pound propane tanks outside was being used to provide heat and hot water in the house, according to Lt. Jack Fitzpatrick, commander of the Suffolk police Homicide Squad. He said the triggering agent had not been identified. Police have theories, he said, but as of Thursday there was no evidence of negligence.

Islip Town officials said the house owner, Marcel Richard, 62, of Brooklyn, did not have the permit the town requires for use and connection of the large propane tanks.

Richard could not be reached for comment Thursday.

Islip Town spokeswoman Inez Birbiglia said there has been no permit issued for the tanks at the home under any owner since it was built in 1971. A plumbing permit is required by town code when propane tanks are connected, she said. The work must be done by a licensed plumber.

Islip Town Attorney Robert L. Cicale said the town has no plans to file any violations against the property owner for the lack of a propane permit because of the police probe.

"The people leading this investigation are the police, and possibly the DA's office," Cicale said. "We stand ready to assist them in anything they need from us."

Fitzpatrick said investigators would meet with town officials about possible violations regarding the tanks.

"If he didn't have one [permit] and you needed one, or if the town said there was a problem and he didn't fix it, then that could make you criminally liable," he said. "But no one is saying that."

The maternal grandfather of the dead child, Rah-quan Palmer, 18 months old, said Thursday that the family had received donations that will enable them to hold a funeral service for the child.

Marvin Jennings, 48, of Brentwood said arrangements are being handled by Joseph A. Slinger-Hasgill Funeral Home, 155 Sunrise Hwy. in Amityville. There will be a service Wednesday at the Church Of God In Christ Prayer Tabernacle in Amityville, with burial to follow in Amityville Cemetery. Exact times were not available. A coffin was donated, he said.

The baby's parents were staying in an East Islip hotel room paid for by the Red Cross, Jennings said.

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