Cause of Bozeman Explosion Still Under Investigation

By Beacon Staff

BOZEMAN – The cause of the explosion that rocked downtown Bozeman last week, destroying several businesses and damaging others, remains under investigation.

NorthWestern Energy spokeswoman Claudia Rapkoch said the power company was assisting city officials as they searched through the rubble to reconstruct events leading up to the March 5 explosion that killed a woman who worked at an art gallery.

“They’re going very carefully and methodically because they’re looking for evidence, so it’s going to take time,” Rapkoch said.

Rapkoch said the utility did not receive any reports of natural gas odors in the 48 hours preceding the explosion.

Bozeman Fire Chief Jason Shrauger says he hadn’t heard any reports of people getting sick from gas fumes prior to the explosion, but he declined further comment.

The explosion crumbled four buildings, destroying Boodles restaurant, Montana Trails Gallery, LillyLu’s children’s store and Tolstedt Architects. Several other businesses were heavily damaged, including the Rocking R Bar, the Pickle Barrel restaurant inside the Rocking R and the American Legion Club.

A memorial service for Tara Reistad Bowman, 36, who died in the explosion, is scheduled Tuesday afternoon at Grace Bible Church in Bozeman.

The First Security Bank Foundation has contributed $25,000 to start a relief fund to assist downtown residents and employees affected by the explosion.

“Though we are still saddened by last week’s events, we believe in and are committed to the future of downtown Bozeman,” said Jennifer Allain, spokeswoman for the foundation.

Those in need of help should contact their property owner or employer.

Tax-deductible contributions can be made at First Security Bank branches.

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