BILLINGS — An explosion Friday night took the lives of two Ryegate residents at their home at 105 Third Avenue West. The victims, Curtis Allen Ronning and Christine Marie Debuff, were the owners of the Ryegate Bar and Café.
Golden Valley County Undersheriff Mark Olson said Monday that Debuff and Ronning were in Billings prior to the explosion to get groceries for their café. When they returned home, they smelled gas and attempted to shut off the gas valves and open all the windows in the mobile home.
After attempting to air out their home, Olson said they went to their bar and café, and, according to people at the bar, Ronning had mentioned that his home smelled like gas or propane.
Shortly after the two returned home, it exploded.
“I’m speculating that it was probably a time period of maybe a half-hour that they went home and closed the house up. There was a buildup of gas. We don’t know what transpired at that point. Whether the gas was underneath the trailer and didn’t vent when he had opened the house up, or the leak was so severe that when he did close the house up something came on,” said Olson.
Olson said that a furnace or another source could have ignited the gas, causing the explosion.
Two nearby residents who noticed the explosion attempted to rescue Ronning and DeBuff but were unsuccessful. One of the men received second-degree burns to his hand and a severe laceration as the roof fell while he was inside. The other man received second-degree burns as well. Both had to be pulled from the home and taken to the hospital. They have since been released.
Olson said the bottom line is that people should always call 911 and leave the home if they ever smell gas. “This was a tragedy here. The community will certainly miss them,” said Olson.
The fire is being investigated by the state fire marshal and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives. We will update you if we get more information.