Survivor of NY explosion accused of causing blast

June 14, 2012 - 2:46 PM

FORT EDWARD, N.Y. (AP) — A man who narrowly escaped an explosion that leveled his eastern New York home and killed six people has been indicted on charges he tampered with a propane gas line, leading to the blast.

Steven McComsey, 33, of North Creek was arraigned Thursday on six counts of second-degree manslaughter and two of reckless endangerment, Washington County District Attorney Kevin Kortright said. McComsey isn't accused of intentionally causing the explosion at the home in Salem, but authorities said he was reckless and responsible.

Kortright declined to detail how the propane line was altered.

Investigators said a spark from a water pump switch ignited propane that had leaked and accumulated in the cellar, causing the explosion that killed six of the 11 people inside on July 13. McComsey suffered minor injuries as he was leaving or standing outside when the building blew up. Several of his family members were among the dead.

The indictment came after a monthlong grand jury proceeding that included 20 witnesses. It took time for prosecutors to get the case to a grand jury after investigators said destruction of the house and evidence complicated the initial probe.

McComsey didn't enter a plea at his arraignment. He is expected to be represented by the county public defender. A lawyer who represented him during the grand jury action has said McComsey did nothing wrong and the state has no reason to bring criminal charges against him.

Each of the manslaughter counts carries a maximum penalty of 15 years. McComsey is being held on $75,000 bail and is due back in court Aug. 24.

The explosion killed McComsey's girlfriend, 41-year-old Tammy Palmer; Robert Sanford, 16; Lawrence Berg Jr., 19; Darrell Durham, 20; and his 2-month-old daughter, Niyah Lynn Durham. They all lived at the house. Also killed was Clarissa Lyn Porlier, 19, a visitor.

Salem is 40 miles northeast of Albany near the Vermont border.