Wynnewood, Lower Merion Township, PA — The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) reported that the investigation into the multimillion-dollar destruction of a Gladwyne, PA mansion may be impeded by the partial shutdown of the Federal Government.
“There are plans to have items sent to the lab in Maryland for some testing but probably not until March or April depending on what happens with the government shutdown,” stated Special Agent Charlene Hennessy, PIO for the Philadelphia Field Division of ATF.
Authorities close to the investigation have reported that the plan is to reconstruct the mansion in a mock-up as it was before the gas explosion leveled it turning the multi-million dollar stately home into dumpsters full of shredded debris.
According to authorities, ATF is looking to discover “the how” and “the why” of the explosion.
"I confirmed with the case agent the materials were immediately sent to the lab," added Hennessy, "but due to the lab's schedule, the government shutdown and additional testing that needed to be completed prior to the engineers recreating the scene, the March/April timeframe is when the evidence is slated for analysis. "
"This could be pushed however depending on how long this shutdown lasts," said Hennessy.
Officials from the Lower Merion Fire Department have stated that a gas explosion is the most likely explanation for the explosion but they are happy to have the resources, experience, and financial backing of the elite federal agency to assist.
On Sunday, Nov. 4, 2018, the Gladwyne mansion exploded from a gas leak, reducing the grand house to rubble. Personnel from twelve State, Local and Federal agencies combined to perform an “on-scene” investigation.
The teams joined together to perform a massive evidence gathering effort. Montgomery County supplied their own portable Public Safety Structure which was used as the Command and Control center for resources and logistics.
Multiple heavy-duty construction vehicles including a Trackoe Excavator were obtained and used in the investigation.
Tree trimming and high voltage aerial technicians were brought in to gather debris field pieces that hung high in trees on the 2.4-acre property and neighboring properties. Debris that landed outside of the potential crime scene was recovered and cataloged. Contractors made repairs to neighboring homes where windows and roof were damaged.
The Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms Agency (ATF) was then placed in control of the investigation and given responsibility for the majority of the collected evidence.
“As of right now, the investigation is ongoing and there isn’t really anything that can be shared at this time,” said Hennessy. “We are partnered with Lower Merion on the investigation and evidence collected from the scene will be sent to the ATF Fire Research Lab in Ammendale, Maryland.”
“Coordination with 12 agencies from multiple jurisdictions just couldn’t have gone any smoother,” said Lower Merion Township Fire Department Chief and Fire Marshal Charles “Chas” McGarvey. "Each agency did exactly what was requested of them and more," he added.
The investigation is in the process of cataloging and indexing the materials sent to the lab for analysis and specialized forensic investigators and lab personnel review all of the recovered materials, authorities said.
“ATF offers a vast amount of expertise such as ATF Certified Fire Investigators, Certified Explosives and Post Blast specialists, engineers and laboratory personnel to help with the origin and cause determinations,” said Hennessy.
But delving into how the case can be potentially stalled by the shutdown gripping many federal employees, Hennessy noted that some aspects of this case put it into the middle of the queue.
Since this was considered a “routine” case with no fatalities, Hennessy said, this would not be considered priority and therefore placed in line at the lab for analysis.
"The lab receives evidence from all 25 field divisions across the country," Hennessy added, "as well as urgent requests and materials/evidence from large scale fire and explosive scenes in which the National Response Team are called out to."
She said those cases take priority unless there is an urgent reason. She said that in the Dodds Lane case the materials will be analyzed and a scene mock-up will be completed, if necessary, "when the lab personnel are able to get to it."
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