Watauga County Sheriff Len Hagaman has released the final details into the investigation of last week’s landslide that resulted in two deaths. His full statement is below:
On May 30, 2018, at 5:15 pm, emergency responders were dispatched to a report of an explosion at 201 Pine Ridge. Upon arrival the Boone Fire Department launched an immediate rescue effort to try and locate victims inside the collapsed structure which lasted into the evening. The bodies of the occupants Mr. James “Jim” Lanford and Mrs. Audri Lanford were located in the debris of the residence.
A joint investigation was begun by the Watauga County Sheriff’s Office, Boone Fire Department, Watauga County Fire Marshal’s Office, ATF and the NC Office of the State Fire Marshal’s Fire Investigations Unit, to determine the chain of events that led to the devastation of the residence. The following is a summation of the chain of events that led to the devastation.
Midday on May 30, 2018, a landslide was detected by the occupants that encroached on the residence which impacted the LP gas regulator that serviced the home. At approximately 2:30 pm a strong odor of LP gas was detected in the area of 201 Pine Ridge.
At 4:30 pm, Mr. Lanford contacted Suburban Propane by phone, and they assisted him in turning off the LP supply at the tank. Around this time the Lanford’s attempted to remove gas fumes by ventilating the residence.
The power to a back up water heater at the home was turned on around 5:08 pm, and at 5:11 pm an explosion was reported to the Watauga County 911 center.
Due to the complexity of the investigation, unstable conditions, and complications of severe weather; the investigation was lengthy. There have been many theories and much speculation about how this tragedy occurred. The above listed timeline was established based on the evidence and facts uncovered during the investigation.
Our condolences to the families and friends of the victims including the residents of the Heavenly Mountain Community.
Many thanks to the agencies who responded to this event.
Boone Fire Department, Boone Police Department, Blowing Rock Fire Department, Blowing Rock Police Department, Watauga Medic, Watauga Rescue, Watauga County Emergency Management, Watauga County Communications, Boone Public Works, Blowing Rock Public Works, Red Cross, Foscoe Fire Department, Cove Creek Fire Department, Linville Central Rescue Squad, Fleetwood Fire Department, Champion Fire Department, Caldwell County Emergency Services, Lenoir Fire Department, Claremont Fire Department, Alexander County Rescue Squad and Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) Taskforce – Buncombe County.