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Residential Hall Explosion: Gas Leak Confirmed, Criminal Activity Ruled Out

Michael Pickens

Investigators say a natural gas leak is to blame for Wednesday's explosion at Murray State’s vacant Richmond Residence Hall. The four story brick building suffered crippling damage and engineers have yet to assess the future viability of the structure.

Kentucky State Police Public Information Officer Jody Cash said the cause of the leak is still under investigation but has been determined to be non-criminal. Vice president of University Advancement Adrienne King said the extent of the damage to Richmond Hall and the buildings surrounding the blast is still unknown at this time. King said all residents staying in the affected areas have been relocated to buildings cleared by the fire marshal. She said Murray State will be working with the Incident Command Center to check all utilities on campus and will continue working with them as the process moves forward.

King said there were no students in Richmond Hall during the time of the incident. King said the high school aged participants for camps that the university hosts typically stay in Richmond Hall, but were boarded in a different residential hall this year for Richmond to undergo renovations during the summer months. Only residential hall employee Dakota Fields 26, of Murray, was inside Richmond during the explosion; he was airlifted to Vanderbilt with injuries but has remained in stable condition.

King said the university will be communicating with students and parents in the coming weeks but does not anticipate that the incident will delay classes, which start August 15. King said those who have a vehicle or belongings in the area affected by the blast are still not allowed to go into the area until it is cleared by safety officials. Cash said safety officials will be putting a temporary fence around the affected area soon.

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