By SUE SUCHYTA
Sunday Times Newspapers
MELVINDALE – Despite an arraignment delay, police reports reveal new details of an evening that started with a social bonfire for suspect Andrew Gregoire and ended in a massive explosion and evacuation.
A court official said the arraignment for Gregoire, 24, of Melvindale, which was scheduled July 26 in 24th District Court, 6515 Roosevelt in Allen Park, has been delayed without a new date being set, while police and his lawyer continue discussions.
Police allege Gregoire was drunk when, at 2:40 a.m. July 2, he was traveling south on Greenfield a few blocks from his residence when, instead of turning right onto southbound Allen Road, he turn left into the northbound Greenfield lanes, up onto the sidewalk, through the fence and onto DTE property, where his car struck a 500-pound above ground natural gas main pipe, damaging it and resulting in the first explosion and fire. A second larger explosion occurred at 2:58 a.m.
When Melvindale Police Lt. John Allen spoke to Gregoire at Detroit Receiving Hospital at 7:40 a.m. July 2, he voluntarily told officers what he remembered and asked if anyone was injured.
Gregoire said that at 10 p.m. July 1 he went to a friend’s house for a bonfire, and said he had one large mixed drink, consisting of vodka and soda pop.
He said he recalled leaving the bonfire and going to the Hayloft bar, 8070 Greenfield. He said a had a couple more mixed drinks of vodka and soda pop.
Gregoire said he did not remember what time he left the bar or where he was headed. He said the next thing he remembers is his car, a 2015 Volkswagen Passat, being on fire, and his friend, who was following him in a separate vehicle, pulling him from the burning car.
Gregoire remembers the police helping him and transporting him to the hospital, initially Beaumont – Dearborn, before he was transferred to Detroit Receiving.
Allen said he told Gregoire that no one was injured, but he explained the extent of the damage caused by the explosion and the evacuation.
He said in his report that Gregoire said he only had a couple drinks and did not feel intoxicated.
Allen followed up with a subpoena to secure toxicology results on Gregoire.
Police report that the other car that burned, that of a bystander who stopped, then found the car too hot to return to, was a 2003 Mazda Protege.
DTE told the Incident Command Center that the gas line was shut off at a station in Ypsilanti, and the gas in the pipe had to burn out before firefighters could extinguish the remaining blaze.
Police departments responding to help with the incident, including the evacuation and barricades, included Allen Park, Dearborn, Detroit, Ecorse, Lincoln Park, River Rouge, Southgate and the State Police.
Melvindale’s Community Emergency Response Team and the American Red Cross operated an evacuation center at Inter-City Baptist Church, 4700 Allen Road in Allen Park.
Melvindale’s Department of Public Works was instrumental in setting up the barricades.
The intensity of the fire destroyed asphalt on Greenfield at Allen Road, and the explosion damaged traffic signals at Greenfield and Allen, Greenfield and Schaefer, Schaefer and Raupp, and Schaefer and Oakwood.
Siding was damaged at Deerfield Estate Condominiums at Dearborn Street and Allen Road, and the Kessey Field House sign was damaged.
Fred Bello of Fredi’s Pizza, 17900 Allen Road, said the explosion broke a window in his business.
DTE damage was extensive, including but not limited to a fenceline, utility trucks, power lines, heavy equipment and a building near the site of the accident.
(Sue Suchyta can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)