PHOENIX - Two explosions and a fire leveled an eight-unit apartment building early Wednesday, seriously injuring at least two people. One person was unaccounted for: a caretaker who was facing eviction.
The first explosion originated in the apartment of the caretaker, 49-year-old Dale Wayne Barry, Assistant Fire Chief Bob Khan said. Barry had been served with an eviction notice, he said.
Phoenix Mayor Skip Rimsza said officials were conducting a criminal investigation into the explosion.
The cause of the blasts wasn't known. Crews weren't expected to begin searching the tangle of debris until Thursday because a structural engineer would need to deem it safe. The rubble continued to smolder Wednesday afternoon.
Chris Barker, who lives in the apartment complex, said he and another person saw Barry in his apartment but were unable to rescue him due to the heat.
Khan said Barry was missing but said officials couldn't say whether he was in the rubble.
"No one could survive that and still be inside," Khan said.
The explosions occured five minutes apart around at 12:45 a.m., Khan said. They leveled the two-story building, leaving only parts of three cinder block walls standing amidst the charred debris.
"The walls blew out and the roof just pancaked right down," said Phoenix Fire Capt. Mark Angle. Another 40 to 50 apartments were damaged.
Nearby buildings were rocked by the blast, which shattered 50 to 60 windows and catapulted bricks onto cars in the parking lot. Singed blinds and curtains could be seen in some of the nearby buildings.
There are 31 buildings in the central Phoenix complex.
Shauntia Stuart, who lives in the apartment complex, said she was awakened by the sound of the explosion.
"All I could see was a big ball of fire," she said.
At least two people were hospitalized as a result of the blast.
A 35-year-old man was listed in critical condition Wednesday with trauma and burn injuries, said administrative nursing supervisor Tanya Sarkisian at Maricopa Medical Center. A 36-year-old woman was in serious condition with trauma injuries, she said.
Seven others were hospitalized with injuries that weren't considered life-threatening, Khan said.
Garth Andrews, a Southwest Gas spokesman, said crews found no underground gas leaks and received no reports that residents smelled the artificial odor added to natural gas.