An explosion in the bedroom of a Little Haiti home killed a man, sent flames out the window and left neighbors wondering whether the tragedy could have been avoided.
“The writing was on the wall,” said Malika Kabboushi, who owns the house next door. “Nothing in that house is up to code.”
The smell of smoke lingered in the air Thursday morning as investigators from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; the State Fire Marshal’s office; Miami police; and Miami Fire-Rescue tried to piece together what had happened inside the heavily damaged house.
“The only person that really knows what happened is no longer here,” said Lt. Ignatius Carroll, a spokesman for Miami Fire Rescue.
The man was in the room when the explosion occurred at 10:30 p.m. Wednesday, Carroll said.
Authorities did not immediately identify the dead man. No one else was injured.
The house at 54 NW 53rd St. was divided into separate living quarters, according to Miami fire officials. Two women and three men lived there.
“People were in and out all the time,” said Kabboushi, looking over the house’s charred frame.
Miami records show there have been issues with the house in the past, including work done without a permit. The homeowners also were cited for illegal dumping and an overgrown lot.
A woman who identified herself as the owner declined to speak about the fire or the house. She did speak to detectives.
Property records show the house, built in 1938, is owned by Huong Le.
The fire’s cause does not appear to be arson, Carroll said.
“They did not find anything that would lead them to believe this was intentional,” he said. Carroll said investigators were looking into whether the man had stored containers of gasoline for his scooter in the room.
A police dog searched the property for the scent of anything that might have set off the explosion or helped the fire spread.
Neighbors said the blast was so loud they feared for their safety.
“I was in my house and I heard a really loud noise,” Caitlin Wiggins told Miami Herald news partner CBS4. “I looked out the window, and there was a big burst of fire.”
Neighbor Felicia Dejan said she thought her own foundation was crumbling.
“We just got out of there right away,” she said.
Miami Herald writer David Smiley contributed to this report.