Explosion kills 1 man

‘I thought it was the end of the world’

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Members of the Kalispell Fire and Police departments make their way through the  remains of what was the residence at 725 Ninth Ave. W. on Friday morning in Kalispell. An explosion  just after 2 a.m. killed one person and destroyed the house.

A Kalispell man was killed in an earth-shattering explosion and subsequent fire that reduced his home to rubble early Friday morning.

The home of 57-year-old John Parsons at 725 Ninth Ave. W. detonated at 2:15 a.m., killing him and shaking homes five blocks away. Some neighbors told police the impact of the blast was strong enough to knock pictures from their walls.

The explosion was heard as far away as Two Mile Drive.

No cause has yet been determined and the incident remains under investigation by the Kalispell Fire Department, Kalispell Police Department, the state of Montana and Flathead County. Foul play is not suspected.

Firefighters found the house engulfed in flames when they arrived on the scene.

Daily Inter Lake carrier Dallas Tedrick was among those closest to the blast while on her morning route just two blocks from the home.

“I had just gotten out of my car and started walking when I heard a big ‘kaboom!’ and the earth shook,” she said. “I thought it was the end of the world.”

Tedrick was showered with tiny pieces of foam insulation, which later could be seen lining the edge of Eighth Street West. She said emergency responders were on the scene immediately.

“It seemed like everybody was right there right away,” she said.

She also reported hearing a popping noise that sounded like fireworks. It later was determined to be live ammunition being set off by the flames.

Nearby residents were jolted awake by the concussive blast.

“I jumped clean out of my bed — and I live over on Fifth Street,” Nickie Boykin said.

As firefighters continued to put water on hot spots late in the morning, Boykin was visiting with her friend Darlene Radabah, who lives directly across the street from the devastated house.

“It was like a bomb, it shook the whole house,” Radabah said. “I got up to look out the window and all I saw were flames.”

Boykin said the explosion also shook her house.

Radabah had seen Parsons before but said she did not know him. Both women shared the distress they felt when they found out he had died. Before the body was found, they had hoped he was not home.

Shelby Zachary came to the scene after she heard the explosion because her son lives just a few houses down the street. At first, it took her a minute to realize what happened.

“When I heard it initially, I thought somebody hit my house,” Zachary said.

After a short period of time, she said, all the neighbors were out. They also heard the popping noise coming from the fire.

“Police came down and warned us, told us, ‘That’s live ammo going off,’” Zachary said.

There was little visible damage to surrounding homes. Windows were unbroken and siding was unmarred, although Kalispell Police reported some minor damage to nearby houses.

The affected home, however, was obliterated.

Debris from the explosion was scattered for several blocks around the blast site, including at the home of Bob and Leslie Sherry. The couple found siding from the home in their front yard.

“I thought a tree landed on our house,” Bob said.

He filmed the fire after the explosion on his cell phone and also took pictures. In the video, the popping of exploding ammunition can be heard.

“We thought the whole neighborhood was going to go up,” Leslie said.

Zachary said another neighbor told her they found chunks of an apple tree in their yard.

Along with emergency workers, NorthWestern Energy personnel responded to the scene. The company has natural gas lines in the area, including one to the destroyed home, which they disconnected.

NorthWestern Energy spokesperson Claudia Rapkoch said damage to the gas lines was limited to the site of the home.

“We assisted the fire department in terms of conducting tests and making sure our system in the area was safe,” Rapkoch said. “We did leak detection in the neighborhood to make sure it didn’t cause any problems, and we didn’t find anything.”

The walkway at this west Kalispell lot leads up to a house that's not there any more after an explosion and fire early Friday morning.


Kalispell Fire Chief Dave Dedman and Capt, Rob Cherot work at the scene of a fatal house explosion on Friday morning at 725 Ninth Ave. W. in Kalispell.


A crew from NorthWestern Energy works in the debris of a house that exploded killing one person on Friday afternoon in Kalispell. The explosion at 725 9th Avenue West happened just after 2 a.m.


A crew from NorthWestern Energy works in the debris of a house that exploded killing one person on Friday afternoon in Kalispell. The explosion at 725 9th Avenue West happened just after 2 a.m.

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