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Identity of woman killed in house explosion released, investigation continues into cause

By GARY LIBERATORE

WHITESBORO, N.Y. (WKTV) - The autopsy is complete, and the name and cause of death has now been released of the elderly woman who was killed when her Whitesboro home exploded over the weekend.

Oneida County Coroner Steve Wolanin says the woman is 84-year-old Ariadna Tarnowski.

Wolanin says there is no way to tell whether she was conscious at the time of the explosion, but her official cause of death is being ruled as blunt force trauma to the chest.

A large team of investigators from New York State, as well as the Whitesboro Police and Fire Departments, were all back out at the scene on Ablett Avenue Monday, sifting through the rubble to determine exactly what caused the home to explode.

Whitesboro Assistant Chief Duane Evans says the team has already looked at the furnace and hot water heater that are still at the scene.

On Sunday, crews cleared out a lot of debris with heavy equipment and manpower and they were doing the same on Monday.

Assistant Chief Evans says National Grid has been very cooperative in this investigation. They were called to the area Sunday afternoon, hours before the explosion, because some residents complained of an odor of natural gas.

National Grid has not commented on what they found or didn't find during their trip to the area before the explosion.

You may recall this is the very area of Whitesboro that was under water twice just about two months ago when Tropical Storms Irene and Lee came through. As a result, numerous homes in the area had to have major equipment replaced, including furnaces.

Assistant Chief Evans says the home that blew up had its furnace replaced in September, as did a number of other homes.

Many homes have the 'Country Suburban' signs on their lawns, showing who did the work. We contacted Country Suburban on Monday to see if they had any comment on the situation, and what their involvement is in the investigation, but have not received a call back.

Federal Emergency Management Agency representatives have been in this part of Whitesboro over the past two months to help area residents with federal aid, and representatives are back out in the area Monday.

FEMA representative Sharon J. Lewis says she and another representative, both from Washington, D.C. are here specifically because of the explosion.

"This is one of the neighborhoods that we took care of as far as getting them registered for FEMA, and so, since the blast has taken place, we just came back to revisit to make sure everyone is taken care of and if they're displaced, if there is anything FEMA can do to assist," Lewis said.

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