NEW INFO: Separate Oxygen Tank Explosions Kill Two

Authorities say it doesn't appear faulty equipment was behind two deadly fires involving exploding oxygen tanks in Pitt County on Saturday.

The first fire happened at a home on Highway 258 early Saturday morning. Killed was 55-year-old Larry Duncan.

Then around 9:10 a.m. Paul Rich was killed when fire ripped through his Winterville home. Both men had oxygen tanks in their homes.

Pitt County Emergency Management does not feel the fires were caused by the oxygen tanks exploding by themselves. They believe a fire in both homes interacted with the tanks, causing them to explode.

They are looking at whether both victims were smokers and if that played a part sparking the fires.

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Pitt County officials are investigating two separate fires that they believe may have started from two separate oxygen tank explosions.

Firefighters got the call at 9:11 a.m. Saturday morning about a fire at 1438 Gold Leaf Drive in Winterville.

Officials say 71-year-old Paul Rich was inside the home when they believe his oxygen tank exploded. Rich did not survive and the explosion is believed to have caused the fire.

Three firefighters from Eastern Pines Fire Department received minor injuries from steam burns at the scene. They were treated on site and released.

In an unrelated, but similar incident overnight in Fountain; officials say another man, 55-year-old Larry Duncan, was killed in a fire. Officials believe that fire was also caused by an oxygen tank explosion.

That happened at 2276 U.S. 258.

Both incidents are under investigation and autopsy results are pending.

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