2 burned as violent explosion rocks Tacoma neighborhood

TACOMA, Wash. - An early morning propane explosion rocked several homes so violently that nearby residents said they initially thought it was an earthquake.

John Morris, who lives a few doors down just across the street, said it his entire house was shaking.

"It felt like an earthquake. The house, it jumped, and pots and pans fell down, pictures fell off. We thought it was an earthquake so we came to the front porch and we saw flames reflecting off the trees," Morris said.

Others who live on the same block of South 88th Street near South K Street also said photo frames and artwork fell off their walls, rattling them out of bed.

"And a few minutes later another explosion happened, and a couple guys come running out with some friends and they were in the explosion, jackets all torn up like shrapnel," Morris said.

He said one of those men took off running. The other was severely burned, he said.

Investigators later determined that the explosion, in a 40-foot semi-trailer believed to house a meth lab, was caused not by drug manufacturing but instead by a propane leak in a tank that was heating the trailer, said Loretta Cool of the Tacoma police.

Officers are now sifting through debris to see if they can find anything to use as evidence for charges related to operating a meth lab, she said.

Battalion Chief Dave McRoberts said police have been to this property before. He said the explosion literally blew apart the semi-trailer.

"We're not sure how far the explosion went," McRoberts said. "The sides of the container are, I'd guess, 40 feet from where the container base was, the platform."

McRoberts said they called police to look for the man who ran off. Some eight hours later, Tacoma police found him wandering around 96th Street and Pacific Avenue, which is about a mile from the scene of the explosion.

Medics rushed him to the hospital, and police say he was conscious and alert at that time.

The fire department used its advanced life support system to get the initial victim to the hospital, given the extent of his injuries.