Fayetteville, N.C. — Everyone was having a good time Saturday night at a home on St. Louis Street in Fayetteville.
Music blared from a car and kids shot hoops in the street.
But as night fell and it grew darker outside, the mosquitoes were bad. Shirley Small's fiance brought out the stove from the backyard to build a fire in the front yard.
“It was just a stove that stood this high,” she said, gesturing. “Old-time cast iron.”
She and some others had slipped back into the house when suddenly, they heard a horrendous boom.
“The rest of us inside the house just ran to the door, and we just saw everybody on the ground,” Small said.
Her nephew, 28-year-old Martin Antoine Blossom, died in the explosion, which happened about 8:30 p.m. Four others, including a 14-year-old girl who lived next door, were taken to Cape Fear Valley Hospital with injuries.
Small said Blossom was a father with a 5-year-old son named Royal and another baby boy due in a month.
“He was like everybody’s best friend,” she said.
The shrapnel punched holes in a parked car and flattened a tire. Authorities are still investigating.
Fayetteville Assistant Fire Chief Ron Lewis declined to speculate on what may have caused the explosion.
“Vapors or flammable liquids of some sort, but to say what it was, we just don’t know,” he said.
Shirley Small says the stove was dirty and full of debris and pine sap. She thinks that might have triggered it.
Lewis says enclosed fire pits are generally safe, if handled with care. That means “away from combustible liquids, that you’re burning the proper fuel inside them, and that you have a water source handy in case something does get out of control,” he said.