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Publish Date: 3/22/2005

3 children killed in lodge blast identified


DELTA — While embers still glowed in the rubble of a mountain lodge Monday, authorities identified the children killed in a weekend explosion at the retreat as members of the lodge owners’ family.

A family spokesman said the victims were Leslie Ann Bilbrey, 12, Isaac Michael Watkins, 2, and Jamie Marie Reade, 16.

The three were part of the same extended family, spokesman Dale Harper said in a news release issued by a hospital in nearby Grand Junction. The news release did not list their relationship or hometowns, and Harper declined to comment.

Lodge co-owners Mike and Nancy Hughes, also members of the family, were among the 16 people injured in Saturday’s explosion and fire at the Electric Mountain Lodge. None of their injuries were disclosed.

Authorities suspect a propane leak caused the blast.

Survivors said the lodge was hosting a family reunion when the blast ripped through the sprawling, 15,000-square-foot building. It burned so fiercely that fire crews could do nothing with it for hours, despite heavy snow.

Even Monday, Delta County Sheriff Fred McKee said there were “red-hot embers” in the charred rubble, with only two chimneys still standing.

Heavy equipment is being brought in to help with the search and the investigation. The lodge is 17 miles north of Paonia up a rugged, mostly unpaved road that is often impassable in the winter.

“It’s going to be a very time-consuming project,” McKee said. “It could be several days before we recover the bodies.”

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