SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — There's more bad news for California water users: the snow pack is just half the amount of normal and has already begun to melt. After a wet fall, the state recorded the driest January and February on record, and March didn't fare much better. Measurements taken Thursday show 28.5 inches of snow at 7,600 feet with a water content of just over a foot. The sparse snow was particularly alarming for state water managers because this is the time of year it is supposed to be most plentiful. Snowmelt provides about a third of the water used in households and on farms across California. The Department of Water Resources says reservoir storage will meet most of this year's needs but cautions that successive dry years could result in drought.
Chico Police say a man was hit and killed by a train late Thursday night. At last report, authorities were still trying to identify the man. His body was found underneath a train car north of Big Chico Creek. Witnesses told investigators it appeared the man jumped into the path of the train.
A man accused of killing his mother in Chico and dumping her body in a septic tank has pleaded no contest to murder. The Chico ER reports Anthony Yee changed his plea Thursday. He'll be sentenced in May and faces life in prison without the possibility of parole. The victim was killed in December 2011. Prosecutors say Yee hit Judith Nathan in the head with a hammer, then dumped her body in a septic tank.
A 30 year old wanted parolee has been arrested in Chico after a chase. The Chico Police Department says Daniel Hensley tried to get away from an officer on a bike Wednesday afternoon. The officer chased Hensley from the Chico Junior High School area to an apartment on the Esplanade. The suspect was tased and taken into custody. Police say the officer suffered a facial injury during the pursuit.
A Paradise man has pleaded no contest to hit and run, causing the death of a pedestrian leaving church. The District Attorney's Office says 57 year old Timothy McCollum was scheduled for a preliminary hearing Wednesday, but instead entered the plea. Prosecutors say McCollum hit 73 year old Myron Bolstead who was crossing Clark Road in February, but claimed he hit a dog during a police interview. The DA's Office says McCollum will be sentenced in May and faces up to 4 years in prison.
A fire has damaged a Chico apartment building. The blaze began as a grease fire in the kitchen at a Rancheria Drive apartment Wednesday night and spread into the attic. The fire also caused smoke damage and water damage in the complex...8 people were displaced. No injuries were reported.
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A new report finds state budget cuts have led to a dramatic decline in student enrollment at California's community colleges. The report released Tuesday by the Public Policy Institute of California details the impacts of $1.5 billion in budget cuts between 2007 and 2012 on California Community Colleges. Enrollment in the 112-campus system dropped from 2.9 million to 2.4 million students, even though the number of high school graduates increased. The declines were sharpest among first-time and returning college students. The report says the number of academic-year course offerings dropped 21 percent while summer offerings fell 60 percent as campuses reducing their teaching staffs. The outlook for California's community colleges has improved since November when voters approved new taxes that will help restore funding lost during the economic downturn.
Construction on a Beale Air Force Base building destroyed by a fire could start this year. The Appeal-Democrat newspaper reports the Air Force has approved 17 million dollars to rebuild the civil engineering building. That facility burned in January...the cause of the blaze is still under investigation.
A Paradise man is accused of providing pot to a juvenile female, allegedly in exchange for sexual favors. 23 year old Adam Muellers was arrested Tuesday. Paradise Police say they found more than 70 pot plants during a search of his home. Muellers is facing charges including contacting a minor to commit a sex act, furnishing a minor with marijuana, and pot cultivation. Officers say they're continuing to investigate to possibly identify other victims.
A drug bust leads to a murder arrest in Glenn County. Authorities found drugs and money last week on I-5 after reportedly stopping 39 year old Fidel Rios-Soto. The Sheriff's Office says someone with the same name was wanted for homicide out of Monterey County. His identity was eventually confirmed as the murder suspect. Authorities say they're making arrangements to have Rios-Soto transported to Moterey County. Meanwhile, he was found on I-5 with meth, a loaded handgun and about 24 thousand dollars in cash.
A Chico crash involving a motorcycle delayed traffic for nearly an hour Monday afternoon. Officials say a motorcyclist allegedly ran a red light and collided with a vehicle on E. 9th and Cypress. The injured motorcyclist was taken to a local hospital.
The Chico Fire Department calling a blaze last week where two young kids were reportedly home alone "suspicious."
Flames damaged a home on York Drive early Friday morning..two girls escaped and ran to a neighbor for help. Fire officials have determined the blaze was "human caused" but the incident is still under investigation. The mother of the two girls was arrested Saturday on suspicion of child endangerment.
Two Butte County residents accused of burglary following a weekend traffic stop. The Sheriff's Office says Diana McDonald was stopped in Paradise early Saturday morning...a search found stolen property in the truck, including guns. McDonald and 27 year old Dusty Havens were arrested on multiple charges.
Chico Police have arrested a 38 year old woman for child endangerment following a fire last week. Rebecca Moralez was arrested Saturday, a day after a blaze damaged her York Drive home. Officials say the woman's 8 and 9 year old daughters were able to escape the fire, which reportedly happened when their mother was not home. The cause of the fire is still under investigation.
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Collection of a fee rural California homeowners were supposed to pay for fire prevention service is being delayed as California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection officials say they're sorting through thousands of complaints challenging its billing data. The $150 annual fee was approved by the legislature in 2011 to offset the costs of providing fire protection to people who live far from services. It affects more than 825,000 homeowners who were billed for the first time between August and December of last year. A spokesman for the department says that after the bills went out the state received 87,000 petitions for reconsideration from homeowners who said they were billed erroneously. More than 70 percent came from people who argued the fee was an illegal tax and were denied. This year's bills will be delayed while the remaining challenges are explored.
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — California courts could charge $10 for each public record search under a proposal included in Gov. Jerry Brown's budget. The governor included the search fee as one of the ways the courts can raise money to offset budget cuts. The judicial budget has been reduced by more than $1 billion over the past five fiscal years, resulting in fewer courtrooms and an array of higher fees. But media organizations and good-government advocates worry that such a fee would restrict access to files the public has a right to view. Steven Jahr, administrative director of the courts, agrees that it's not "sound policy" and says the courts want the Legislature to restore funding. But he says the fee will be necessary if Brown and lawmakers do not increase the court budget.
Paradise Police helping to locate a Sacramento murder suspect. Paradise Police say they were involved in a joint effort with the Sacramento Police Department's Career Criminal Apprehension Team Wednesday, which led to the arrest of a 20 year old man. Jake Clark was wanted for a Sacramento killing. He was taken into custody and transported back to Sacramento County.
A 63 year old man involved in running a Chico daycare has been arrested in a sexual abuse investigation. The Butte County Sheriff's Office says it began investigating allegations of a person inappropriately touching a 3 year old child at Grandma Linda's Day Care on Godman Avenue earlier this month. Thomas Lewis Senior was arrested Monday and was arraigned in court Wednesday. He's accused of oral copulation on a child under the age of 10. The Sheriff's Office says its unknown if there are any other victims.
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Republican state lawmakers are pushing more than a dozen bills to address problems they say have resulted from Gov. Jerry Brown's prison realignment plan, which sends inmates convicted of lower-level crimes to county jails instead of state prisons. The 13 bills, announced Tuesday, would improve supervision of parolees and increase penalties for sex offenders and those illegally possessing or selling firearms. The legislative package also would send more convicts back to prison to ease the burden on local jails, while protecting counties from lawsuits. The bills' chances are uncertain in a Legislature controlled by Democrats. One already died in committee. Brown's office declined comment, but the corrections department says the bills would increase problems in prisons, which are under federal court order to improve conditions and reduce the inmate population.
A 5 year old girl has died in Paradise, after being struck by a car that was shifted out of gear by another child. The Paradise Post reports a 10 year old child was playing in the vehicle and caused it to roll down the driveway Tuesday morning. The car hit and killed Gracie Carmack on Seneca Drive. Investigators say the incident was an accident.
Shasta County authorities say one man suffered burn injuries following a drug-related explosion. The Shasta Interagency Narcotic Task Force says 29 year old Solomona Laupua received burns to about 30 percent of his body following the explosion and fire Tuesday in Shasta Lake City. Officials say it appears Laupua was allegedly involved in making hash oil or honey oil, when vapors ignited.
The man charged with murdering a 14 year old Red Bluff girl could enter a plea next month. 39 year old Quentin Bealer appeared in court this week. Redding.com reports his defense attorney says he's only received minimal evidence from the prosecution. Bealer is accused of strangling 14 year old Marysa Nichols in February. Her body was found in a field near Red Bluff High School several days after she was reported missing.
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Authorities are investigating whether a faulty steering wheel caused a California raceway crash that killed two people in Marysville, including the young cousin of the teenage driver. Undersheriff Jerry Read of the Yuba County Sheriff's Department said Monday that investigators are looking into witness reports that the detachable steering wheel came off just before 17-year-old Chase Johnson's car careened off the dirt track and crashed into pit row. Sheriff's officials say 68-year-old race car owner Dale Wondergem and 14-year-old Marcus Johnson were killed by the collision at Marysville Raceway Park. The accident occurred around 6 p.m. Saturday when Chase Johnson and several other drivers were doing warm-up laps on opening day of the California Sprint Car Civil War Series.
LOS ANGELES (AP) — California State University plans to spend the projected $125.1 million in extra state funding for the 2013-14 academic year to expand enrollment and online courses, boost employee salaries and pay for increased energy and health benefit costs. Assistant Vice Chancellor Robert Turnage on Monday outlined the university system's budget that will be presented to the board of trustees on Tuesday. The extra funds were gained through voter approval of Proposition 30 in November. Turnage says $38.9 million is planned to add more instructors and support staff to admit nearly 6,000 more students, while $38 million will pay for average 1.2 percent raises to employees with the exception of senior administrators. The biggest slice of the funding — $48.2 million — will pay for increased costs for health benefits and energy.
Chico Police seeing less activity and fewer arrests this St. Patrick's Day compared to past years. The local police department made 61 arrests between Friday afternoon and Monday morning...27 of those were for being drunk in public. Chico Police say in 2012, officers made 49 arrests on St. Patrick's Day alone.
Four people arrested after a large fight spilled into the street in downtown Chico on St. Patrick's Day. Chico Police Sergeant George Laver tells KPAY the fight began late Sunday night when two brothers got upset with a bouncer at LaSalle's. Laver says more than a dozen officers helped control the fight.
The four people were arrested on charges ranging from drunk in public to battery.
REDDING, Calif. (AP) — A Shasta County sheriff's deputy has shot and wounded a man with mental health issues after he tried to stab the officer with a knife. The Record Searchlight reports the man was taken to a local hospital with two non-life threatening gunshot wounds. The incident unfolded around 7 p.m. Saturday when two deputies received a report of a family disturbance. When deputies arrived, they encountered an uncooperative man armed with a knife. Police say a deputy shot the man with a stun gun, but it was ineffective. Police say the man lunged at a deputy in an attempt to stab him and the deputy shot him, police said. The officer-involved shooting is being investigated by the Redding Police Department.
MARYSVILLE, Calif. (AP) — A sheriff's captain says two people were killed when a speeding race car ran off the track into pit row at a California raceway. Yuba County Capt. Ron Johnson tells the Marysville Appeal-Democrat that 68-year-old Dale Wondergem Jr. and 14-year-old Marcus Johnson were killed in the Saturday night crash at Marysville Raceway Park. Johnson says Wondergem was pronounced dead at the track and Johnson was declared dead either at the hospital or in an ambulance. Johnson says the two were part of a crew and had a right to be in the pit area.
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — California teachers are seeing a steep drop in pink slips, thanks to the strengthening economy and new revenue from voter-approved taxes. The California Teachers Association says 2,900 educators received preliminary layoff notices just before Friday's statewide deadline for districts to warn teachers they might lose their jobs. That's just a fraction of the 22,000 educators who got pink slips at the same time last year. The Sacramento Bee says the CTA represents 95 percent of California's K-12 teachers and other educators. The California Department of Education says since 2008, the state's teacher workforce has declined by 8.5 percent to about 284,000 educators today. After voters approved two statewide tax hikes in November, Gov. Jerry Brown in January proposed a state budget that boosts K-12 funding by 4 percent next school year.
The Chico woman critically injured in a rollover crash last week on Highway 149 has died. Officials say 24 year old Sierra Fox was pronounced dead Sunday. The CHP says Fox was injured when she lost control on the highway, ran off the roadway, and her vehicle overturned. The CHP says speed and alcohol were believed to be factors in the crash.
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — The state employee furloughs started under Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger greatly increased the cash-out liabilities owed by California taxpayers when those workers leave government service.
A report released Thursday by the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst's Office says payments to employees for accrued leave time are at historic levels, reaching nearly $270 million in the last fiscal year. The furloughs were intended to help close budget deficits and saved the state about $5 billion over five years. But nearly $1 billion now must be paid to employees in accrued leave time when they quit or retire. The report says many workers simply substituted furloughs for their normal vacation days, increasing the state's liabilities. California's long-term liability to pay employee leave balances is now $3.9 billion annually, or 27 percent of all salary costs.
Chico Police preparing for parties and alcohol-related problems this weekend, as St. Patrick's Day falls on Sunday. The Police Department plans to increase staffing beginning today. The agency will also get help this weekend from local Sheriff's Departments, Alcohol Beverage Control agents, and Chico State Police. Last year, officials made more than 50 arrests around St. Patrick's Day.
A Chico woman suffered critical injuries after her car overturned on Highway 149. The CHP says alcohol is believed to be a factor in the wreck Thursday night. Officers say the 24 year old driver, identified as Sierra Fox, lost control on the highway, ran off the roadway, and her vehicle flipped. She was flown to Enloe Hospital with major injuries and arrested.
A 64 year old woman was trapped in a car after a Chico crash Wednesday morning. Chico Police say Michaele Moore had to be extricated by fire crews after her car was hit by a truck on East Avenue. Moore was taken to a local hospital. The 17 year old driver of the truck suffered minor injuries. The cause of the collision is still under investigation.
LOS ANGELES (AP) — A new economic report shows a rise in business investment and exports will help drive California's economy in the coming year, while unemployment continues to drop. The UCLA Anderson Forecast released Wednesday shows that the Golden State is expected to capture a large proportion of the gains as the U.S. economy, boosted by auto sales and housing starts, is poised for real growth in 2013. The report says the nation's gross domestic product is expected to grow 1.9 percent this year and 2.8 percent in 2014. Employment growth is expected to remain steady in California, but the yearly growth rate slowed to 1.6 percent in December. The forecast say unemployment in California will fall this year and average 9.6 percent and could drop to 8.4 percent next year.
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — A Democratic lawmaker is proposing a package of bills to address an expected doctor shortage as California prepares to insure millions of new patients under federal health care reforms. Sen. Ed Hernandez of West Covina said Wednesday that his three bills would expand services that can be provided by nurse practitioners, optometrists and pharmacists. Hernandez, who is an optometrist, said California has a shortage of doctors who serve rural areas and inner cities. His bills would allow nurse practitioners to see Medicaid and Medicare patients even if the doctors they work with do not. Optometrists could check for high blood pressure, while pharmacists could order laboratory testing to detect diabetes. The California Medical Association says more medical schools and residency slots are needed. The bills are SB491, SB492 and SB493.
Shasta County authorities are working with a Chico State lab to identify a skull found in Redding. Police say an inmate work crew discovered the human skull Monday in thick brush near a canal. Police say the Chico State Human Identification Lab was called to the scene and will work with the Coroner's Office to identify the remains.
The man charged with murder in the death of a Red Bluff teenager is expected back in court today. The Redding Record Searchlight reports several defense attorneys said they were unable to represent 39 year old Quentin Bealer due to a conflict of interest Tuesday. Bealer is accused of strangling 14 year old Marysa Nichols in February. The newspaper reports Bealer told the judge he didn't understand why he was charged with murder based on a surviellance video photo.
A 21 year old Chico woman injured after her car was hit by a truck. The Chico Police Department says Karly Deal had to be extricated from her vehicle Tuesday morning following the crash at W. 8th and Ivy. Investigators say it appears Deal did not see the approaching pick-up and pulled into the path of the truck.
A former Butte County Jail employee will face a trial on bribery charges. The E-R reports a judge Monday said their was enough evidence to hold Efrain Mendoza for trial. Prosecutors say Mendoza falsified the community service records in exchange for cash and services. Mendoza maintained records for the Sheriff's Work Alternative Program.
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — A bill that seeks to ban lead ammunition in California promises to revive a debate between gun groups and environmental advocates. Assemblyman Anthony Rendon on Monday introduced final language of the bill designed to keep the neurotoxin out of the food chain of condors and other scavengers.
The recently elected Democrat from Lakewood says that after lead bans in paint, gasoline and in shells used by hunters of waterfowl, the legislation would remove a lingering source of pollution from the environment. The bill was sponsored by three environmental groups. The National Rifle Association has opposed past efforts to ban or restrict the use of lead ammunition.
Authorities have identified the man who either jumped or fell to his death from a local overpass. The E-R reports he's been identified as 58-year-old Randy Kline of Chico. The CHP is still investigating Thursday's incident. Kline fell or jumped from the Cohasset Road overpass and was hit by at least two cars on Highway 99. Investigators think a bike on the overpass belonged to Kline.
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) - California's top judge is urging lawmakers to reinvest in the state's court system after years of budget cuts, saying the reductions have limited the public's access to justice. In remarks prepared for her second annual "State of the Judiciary" address, Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye on Monday said California has cut more out of its judicial branch than any other state. She says the budget has been cut by more than $1 billion over the last five years. California spends 1 percent of its general fund on its court system while other states typically spend 2 percent. She says equal justice in California "cannot be had for a penny on the dollar." The cuts have resulted in fewer courtrooms, higher fees and delayed construction on a number of buildings.
SELMA, Calif. (AP) — California's $44 billion agricultural industry faces a worsening labor shortage as farmworkers age and fewer migrants from Mexico come to replace them. The Sacramento Bee reports the state's farming workforce is aging and shrinking for several reasons, including tightening immigration enforcement and an improving economy in Mexico. In addition, farmworkers say their children aren't interested in field work. The California Farm Bureau Federation says more than 70 percent of state agricultural producers expect a worker shortage starting this spring and worsening through the growing season. Lawmakers and farm lobbyists are discussing remedies, including granting legal status to more than 1 million undocumented farmworkers and expanding the number of visas for agriculture.
A weekend fire damaged a Chico home. Fire crews were called to a residence on Jackson Street just after 12:30 Sunday morning. No injuries were reported during the blaze. The cause is still under investigation.
The Red Bluff community came together over the weekend to remember a slain teenager. A memorial service was held Saturday at Calvary Chapel for 14 year old Marysa Nichols, who was allegedly strangled to death by 39-year old Quentin Bealer. He was arraigned last week on an open count of murder. The Red Bluff Daily news reports the local District Attorney says it's too early to tell if the D.A. will request the death penalty.
Chico has a new assistant city manager. Mark Orme is expected to take over the position by next month. Orme previously worked with Chico City Manager Brian Nakamura in Hemet and as a congressional aide.
The man accused of killing a Red Bluff teenager has been arraigned in court. 39 year old Quentin Bealer did not enter a plea Wednesday. He's expected to return to a Tehama County courtroom next week. Bealer was arrested Saturday and charged with murder in connection with the death of 14 year old Marysa Nichols in February. According to Police, the preliminary cause of death was strangulation. A memorial for the teen will be held Saturday at Calvary Chapel in Red Bluff.
Police releasing the preliminary cause of death in the murder of a Red Bluff teenager. Authorities say 14 year old Marysa Nichols was strangled. Her body was found last week near Red Bluff High School, two days after she went missing. The Police Department has arrested 39 year old Quentin Bealer as a suspect in the killing. He's expected to be arraigned today.
Chico Police say one man was held at gunpoint during a home invasion robbery. Police say 3 men apparently forced their way into a Covell Park Drive home Tuesday afternoon, stole electronics, then took off on foot. The suspects are described as 3 black men in their mid 20s.
Meanwhile, Chico Police making an arrest in a bomb threat at a local high school. Fair View High School was evacuated last week after a campus employee found a voicemail message threatening to blow up the school. Police say a 17 year old girl was arrested Tuesday. Officers say they don't believe the student had the "means or intentions" of carrying out the threat.
RED BLUFF, Calif. (AP) — Authorities in Northern California say they have recovered the bodies of a 27-year-old man and his 5-year-old son who apparently drowned in their family-owned pond. Tehama County Sheriff's Lt. Dave Greer says James Patrick Van Sickle and his son, James Arthur Van Sickle, were found Monday, two days after they went missing. Greer say deputies were called Saturday afternoon after James Patrick Van Sickle dove into Murphy's Pond in Red Bluff to rescue his son who had fallen in the water from a boat while they were fishing. Neither father nor son were not wearing life vests and could not immediately be found. Greer says Van Sickle's young daughter was also in the boat at the time but was rescued.
A Chico Police officer locates a destructive device during an arrest. Police say an officer spotted a woman with a warrant walking around W. 9th and Mars Avenue Monday morning. During a search of 24 year old Suzanna Ponce, police say they found an explosive device. The local bomb squad was called in to handle the device.
Meanwhile, Chico Police probing a reported robbery attempt on a local bike path. Police say a man was confrontedby two suspects Monday afternoon near Pillsbury Road. One man had a gun and demanded the victim's money. The victim told investigators he fought with the pair...and the suspects ran off on foot.
Chico Police say a man was stabbed in the chest during an argument...he suffered a life-threatening injury. That knife attack happened Monday afternoon on E. Park Avenue. Police say 42 year old John Kenyon was taken to a local hospital and at last report, was in serious condition. The two suspects in the case, 25 year old Jeremy Rivera and 32 year old Trina Baltazar-Dollar, were arrested for assault with a deadly weapon.
Red Bluff Police say an autopsy was performed Saturday on the body of a local teenager...the same day police announced a suspect was in custody in the teen's murder. 39 year old Quentin Bealer was booked into the Tehama County Jail as a suspect in the killing of 14 year old Marysa Nichols. Her body was discovered in a field near Red Bluff High School Thursday. Officers say they're waiting on the pathologist to release the official cause of death in the case.
One man arrested after a weekend standoff in Paradise. The Police Department says officers tried to contact 38 year
old Jason Harding early Sunday morning as part of a stolen vehicle case...when he ran into a Skyway home. He surrendered to officers after a more than 90 minute standoff. Police say he was taken into custody on charges including vehicle theft.
One man arrested in Chico for allegedly firing shots during a party. The Chico Police Department says several shots were reported on Normal Avenue early Sunday morning. Officers say David Sullivan allegedly fired off several rounds from a shotgun during an argument with guests at a party. No one was injured. Sullivan was arrested on weapons charges.
Part of Highway 70 shut down in the northstate. The CHP says Highway 70 in Yuba County is closed at Woodruff after a truck apparently collided with a propane truck just before 6:30 AM. The CHP says the highway could be closed for hours or all day. At last report, a hazmat crew was called to the scene.
The man who admitted to killing a Cal -Trans worker more than 2 years ago gets 15 years to life in state prison. Corning resident Russell Hodge got the sentence for hitting and killing Gary Smith on Highway 99 north of Chico. The incident took place in November of 2010. When arrested, Hodge reportedly had a blood alcohol count of more than twice the legal limit.
ECHO SUMMIT, Calif. (AP) — It's official, and it's not good news for thirsty Californians: January and February have been the driest on record. Thursday's monthly snow survey showed what widely has been known: despite a few good dumps the state hasn't received the kind of major storms needed to ease water managers' worries. Official measurements by the Department of Water Resources show the snowpack at 29 inches, about 57 percent of average. California's Sierra Nevada snowpack provides about one-third of the water used in the state. The survey is anticipated by farmers and cities that depend on snowmelt to supplement water supplies. Still, there is potentially good news coming next week. The National Weather Service forecasts a sizeable storm that could bring more than two-feet of snow across the Sierra Nevada.
Hours after the body of a missing teenager was discovered in Red Bluff, the local police chief says the case has turned into a murder investigation. The body of 14 year old Marysa Nichols was located Thursday morning in a field near the local high school campus and Baker Road. An autopsy is expected tomorrow. Nichols was reported missing earlier this week when she didn't come home from school. The Police Department has set up tip lines
in the case...Anyone with information is asked to contact investigators.
An "explosion" at a Gridley business injured two people. Details are limited, but Cal-Fire says the explosion at "Mary's Gone Crackers" on Kentucky Street happened around 7 Thursday night. Fire damage is estimated at 10 thousand dollars. No word yet what caused the explosion.