Edmonton blast sparks insurance concerns

Some neighbours are concerned about their insurance coverage after police said an explosion in a north Edmonton home on Sunday that killed four people was suspicious.
Edmonton Police Service investigators comb through the rubble of the exploded home. ((John Ulan/Canadian Press))

Some neighbours are concerned about their insurance coverage after police said an explosion in a north Edmonton home on Sunday that killed four people was suspicious.

The blast at a house near 91st Street and 180A Avenue affected 28 homes and caused millions of dollars in damage.

It killed two people who lived in the adjacent house, Brad Winter, 26, and Craig Huber, 30. 

Homicide investigators are investigating the blast, and autopsies have been performed on the deceased.

About 10 families were allowed back into their homes Monday. Some said their insurance companies have told them the damage wouldn't be covered if the explosion is ruled a criminal act.

Chia Nicole, whose garage door and siding were damaged in the blast, said her insurance company told her that if the explosion was caused by an illegal act, her policy would not cover the damage.

However, Fritz Wortman of the Insurance Bureau of Canada said the homeowners were not responsible for the act so their insurance companies should cover them.

"If you set your own house on fire, then you are the criminal and you will not get paid 'cause that's insurance fraud," said Wortman. "These people had nothing to do with it. Their house was damaged, [and] explosion is covered under the policy."

Marco Roy, whose house suffered structural damage, said he hopes his adjuster will help him get the coverage he needs.

"My door is bowed, and at this point, I can't even securely lock my door," Roy said. "The door frame is ripped apart from the explosion that happened after the house [blew] up. At this point, all I got to do is rely on my insurance adjuster and hope he takes care of me."

Wortman recommends homeowners call the Insurance Bureau of Canada if they experience problems with coverage.

Some owners still waiting to return

Many homeowners not yet able to return are waiting to hear if the explosion caused structural damage to their homes.

The Red Cross is assisting families displaced by the blast.

Winter's girlfriend and her three-year-old son were upstairs napping in the same house at the time of the blast. They survived and a neighbour pulled them from the wreckage.

According to land titles, the owners of the home where the explosion originated are Dwayne Poirier and Jeanne Cathleen Heard.

Their whereabouts at the time of the explosion are not known, but Poirier's daughter, Christie, posted a note on her Facebook page that said her father is dead.

"I'm gunna [sic] miss u and I love u lots. Hope u knew that," she wrote.

Claudio Frigo, who lives about half a block from the explosion, said he knew Huber and Winter.

"I feel just sorrow for the individuals that passed away, because they were really nice people," Frigo said.

Investigators are still combing through the rubble, and officials said it could take days — or weeks — to pinpoint the cause of the blast. Police said Monday there is no indication the blast was caused by an explosive device or a drug lab.

David Checkel, an expert in gas explosions at the University of Alberta, said the cause is still a mystery.