19-year-old dies after being hit by flying object from explosion, fire in Clinton Township (2024)

DETROIT — A 19-year-old died after he was hit with a flying object from fiery explosions at a vape distributor Monday night about a quarter-mile away in a Detroit suburb, authorities said.

Fire officials raced to put out a massive fire as hundreds of explosions boomed in Clinton Township, around 25 miles north of downtown Detroit, at around 9 p.m. Monday. The explosions and fire happened at a business building that housed Select Distributors, according to the Detroit Free Press, part of the USA TODAY Network.

Clinton Township Fire Chief Tim Duncan said the teen was at a nearby carwash near a service station when he was hit in the head by a projectile, possibly a tank, that shot out of the fire amid continuous explosions. The teen may have been observing the fire when he was struck, Duncan said, but officials were still investigating the death.

The teen, who has not been identified, died around 4 a.m. on Tuesday, according to Duncan.

"Our thoughts and prayers and sadness to the family, friends and loved ones in the community of the loss of a life of a 19-year-old out in the street that got hit by one of those pieces of shrapnel," Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel said at a news conference Tuesday morning.

"I couldn't think of anything sadder as an outcome for this particular situation," he said.

The large blaze caused multiple explosions, sending debris and gas canisters into the air. Authorities believe the canisters may have been responsible for the explosions but haven’t yet determined the cause of the fire.

Clinton Township police said area residents and businesses were evacuated. The fire was reportedly under control by 11 p.m. Monday, but the cleanup for the explosions and fire continued through Tuesday morning.

Residents up to 10 miles away in Macomb Township, Michigan, reported hearing loud bangs that persisted for more than an hour. Smoke and flames could be seen for miles.

"You could see the amount of fire just coursing in the sky," Duncan said at a news conference Tuesday. "The explosions were actually shaking the car."

Duncan said the explosions were so intense firefighters couldn't initially approach the building. "We had to back out," he said. "There was no way we could put people in harm's way like that."

"This by far was the biggest one that I've ever seen," said Duncan, who has fought fires for 25 years.

Here's what to know about the fire.

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Where were the Clinton Township explosions?

19-year-old dies after being hit by flying object from explosion, fire in Clinton Township (1)

The fire and explosions began in a building that housedSelect Distributors, police said. Duncan said Select Distributors provides gases for vape pens.

The building had also housed a distributor for the vaping industry called Goo which had more than 100,000 vape pens stored on-site, Duncan said.

"They had literally received a truckload of butane within the past week, and they still had over half of that left," Duncan said. "So this is what you're seeing strewn throughout the area."

Duncan said two business owners were interviewed by officials from the local fire department and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives on Monday. The investigation is ongoing, under the jurisdiction of both agencies, Duncan added. Clinton Township police are also assisting.

Township officials said Tuesday that butane and nitrous oxide, lighter fluid, vape pens, and canisters measuring 12-18 inches and weighing 10-15 pounds exploded during the blaze at Goo. The business wasn’t permitted to have those materials and Duncan said the last inspection of the site in 2022 “did not show this amount of material.”

Clinton Township Supervisor Robert Cannon said the city would have "issued violations immediately," had officials known containers of butane and nitrous oxide were being kept in the back rooms of the building.

"There are going to be repercussions," he said.

'Exploding canisters raining down all around us'

The debris fell Monday night as far as a mile away, Clinton Township police said on Facebook. Authorities urged people in the area to stay inside after the explosions began.

Duncan said calls started coming in about 8:50 p.m. and four people in the building heard shaking and got out. He said fire crews could feel shaking on the way to the scene.

There were "exploding canisters raining down all around us and subjecting multiple staff members to potential peril," Township Police Capt. Anthony Coppola said.

Cannon said the township's public works is collecting "as much material as they can be to analyzed by the police department at a later date."

County officials had to "scrape the road" to clear debris from the explosions, according to Duncan. He said officials were trying to recover blades and knives thrown by the explosion.

The Detroit Free Press reported at least one person discovered an open knife in the debris.

Were there any injuries?

19-year-old dies after being hit by flying object from explosion, fire in Clinton Township (2)

Duncan said a firefighter was briefly hospitalized after he was hit with broken glass and shrapnel from the explosion. Cannon said the firefighter was injured when an object went through the windshield of the fire truck.

Both a police and a fire vehicle were damaged by exploding projectile canisters.

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Did the fire affect the air quality in Clinton Township?

Duncan said a hazmat team that arrived to test the air quality Monday evening concluded the area was safe.

"They monitored the situation, they had all their equipment set up," Duncan said. "Everything came back fine. They weren't concerned."

Hackel said Monday preliminary findings from air quality tests determined there was smoke, but nothing hazardous.

Testing was mostly west of Groesbeck, as the wind was pushing smoke westerly and semi-northerly, he said.

Hackel said people with smoke allergies or issues breathing may want to find shelter or a different location to stay if they are bothered by smoke while inside their homes in the immediate area.

He said the county's emergency management assisted with air quality testing and remained on the scene. He said dust or particles on the ground will be tested if need be.

The disaster knocked out power throughout the area, Duncan said. Technicians for DTE Energy were working to restore power as of Tuesday, he said.

Contributing: Thao Nguyen, USA TODAY; The Associated Press

19-year-old dies after being hit by flying object from explosion, fire in Clinton Township (2024)


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