Failed Suicide Attempt Ruled Cause Of Mobile Home Blaze

OCEAN CITY – The resident of a mobile home in north Ocean City that exploded in early December was behind bars this week after investigators determined she allegedly caused the blast by leaving on a propane-fueled oven in a failed suicide attempt.

Shortly before 3 a.m. on Dec. 4, Ocean City Communications received a call for a reported structure fire in the area of 136th Street and Coastal Highway. Ocean City Fire and Police units arrived on the scene a short time later and discovered a mobile home on Gorman Ave. completely engulfed in flames and had spread to two adjacent mobile homes in Sundowner Park.

Fire crews had the blaze, characterized in initial reports as more of an explosion than a fire, under control about an hour later, although they remained on the scene until about 5:45 a.m. The primary unit at 113 Gorman Ave. was completely destroyed, while serious damage occurred at two neighboring residences. It was learned last week a second mobile home damaged in the fire is a total loss, according to the property manager.

The occupant of the primary residence where the explosion occurred, identified as Carol Lynn Blackshear, 52, of Ocean City, was transported by Maryland State Police helicopter to the Johns Hopkins Bayview Burn Center in Baltimore with serious injuries. An Ocean City Fire Marshal’s deputy arrived on the scene and began conducting interviews about the incident.

The deputy fire marshal met with a man, identified as Blackshear’s roommate, who said he arrived at the residence and was immediately hit with a “wall of propane,” according to court documents. The roommate told investigators he believed Blackshear had been using a propane-fueled oven and stove for heat and that he believed the oven and stove had been leaking propane.

The roommate told investigators he located Blackshear inside the residence and that she was nearly passed out, according to court documents. The roommate told investigators he woke up Blackshear and told her to exit the mobile home. The roommate said he walked to the rear of the residence and heard a clicking noise just before the explosion occurred, according to court documents.

The roommate said he was knocked off his feet and to floor in the hallway by the explosion, but was able to get up and locate Blackshear in the living room area and the two were able to exit the now burning mobile home. According to court documents, it was evident by the damage to the mobile home that a gas vapor explosion had occurred and that the only fuel source in the residence capable of producing an explosion of that type was the propane-fueled oven.

Meanwhile, through interviews conducted after the explosion with the roommate, two of Blackshear’s daughters, a granddaughter, a mutual friend and her landlord, it was learned Blackshear could possibly have been suicidal and the incident could have been the result of Blackshear attempting to take her own life. A later interview with the victim confirmed the failed suicide attempt.

Ocean City deputy fire marshals met with Blackshear last Wednesday at a motel in downtown Baltimore not far from where she had been treated and released from the Bayview Burn Center. During the interview, Blackshear told investigators she was home alone around 11 p.m. on Dec. 3 and that she took two shots of vodka and turned the stove on. She told investigators once the stove was on, she blew out the burners to allow propane gas to seep into the residence.

According to court records, Blackshear told investigators she believed if a person had a couple of drinks, turned the gas on and went to sleep, one could die that way. She told investigators she intended to turn the gas on and go to sleep and that her roommate would find her when he returned later in the evening. Blackshear told investigators when her roommate returned from work early and woke her up, she then believed it was not her time to go, according to court documents. She told investigators it was at that point that she got up from the couch and attempted to turn the stove off, but she believes she might have inadvertently turned on the igniter for the stove, which touched off the explosion.

Based on the physical evidence at the scene and interviews with family, friends, the landlord and Blackshear herself, the Ocean City Fire Marshal’s Office on Monday obtained a warrant for her arrest, charging her with attempted suicide and reckless endangerment, the former because of her apparent attempt to take her own life and the latter because of the damages caused to her own residence and those of her neighbors along with the real possibility of serious injury or death to her neighbors.

On Monday, Salisbury Police located Blackshear in that municipality and she was taken into custody and charged with attempted suicide and reckless endangerment. As of late Tuesday, she was being held on the Wicomico County Detention Center on a $10,000 bond.