The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

Local News

July 18, 2014

No ID on female in house explosion until DNA testing done

ORWELL TOWNSHIP — Officials will not release the name of a 27-year-old female who died in a house explosion Wednesday until DNA testing is conducted.

The Ashtabula County Coroner’s Office said it is unable to make a positive identification of the woman without DNA testing. The testing, which will be conducted in Cuyahoga County, could take several weeks, said Tom Dispenes, Coroner’s Office investigator.

Ashtabula County Sheriff William Johnson said the blast, which is said to have been felt for miles, killed the woman instantly and seriously injured a male. The couple were in two separate areas of the home.

The man, who relatives have identified as 25-year-old James Ortiz, was flown by medical helicopter to a Cleveland hospital with second- and third-degree burns.

Victoria Ortiz, James Ortiz’s aunt, said he recently installed a new hot water tank in the home. He came home Wednesday after working 12 hours and had no water to take a shower. She said he went to the basement to check the pump, turned the light on and sparked the explosion.

Victoria Ortiz said 58 percent of James Ortiz’s body is burned and his hands are severely injured from sifting through burning debris trying to locate his girlfriend.

James Ortiz is in the intensive care unit and will undergo numerous surgeries, she said.

Sgt. Brian Cumberledge, of the Sheriff’s Department, said a natural gas leak was the cause of the explosion. The family told authorities there is a history of natural gas seeping into the water system on the property.

The house, which was located at 4033 Montgomery Road, was completely leveled in the blast with debris scattered across the property. Cumberledge said he has never seen a home leveled in such a manner in Ashtabula County.

The explosion was reported at about 6:45 p.m.

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