COLUMBIA CITY — In cooperation with the Whitley County Coroner’s Office and the Indiana State Fire Marshal’s Office, the Indiana State Police is now able to release the following information related to the building explosion and subsequent death investigation in Columbia City which occurred on May 22, 2021.
Whitley County Coroner’s Office
The Whitley County Coroner, based on DNA testing conducted by the Indiana State Police Fort Wayne Regional Laboratory, has confirmed the identity of the deceased victim in the building explosion as Zachery Sparkman, 34, of LaOtto. The manner and cause of death has not yet been officially released, information which will come from the official autopsy report pending with the Northeast Indiana Forensic Center in Fort Wayne.
Indiana State Fire Marshal’s Office
The Indiana State Fire Marshal’s Office investigation has concluded with the following statement:
“We completed the scene examination in Columbia City. We examined all of the natural gas lines in the building and tested them. Several of the connections were found with minor leaks in them, probably from the explosion and fire. A gas valve located along the back wall was examined and revealed the most significant leak in the building. This valve was near the victim’s location. The victim was a known smoker.
No evidence was found indicating a manual intentional manipulation of the buildings natural gas system occurred prior to the explosion. All of the evidence gathered indicates the explosion was caused by an unintentional natural gas leak ignited by an independent ignition source.”
Indiana State Police
The Indiana State Police investigators have not yet finalized their portion of the death investigation, which is pending the final autopsy report from the Northeast Indiana Forensic Center.
There is no further information available for release.