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Michigan man charged with involuntary manslaughter in deadly building explosion

todayApril 26, 2024

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(DETROIT) — The owner of a suburban Detroit business was charged with involuntary manslaughter after a building storing thousands of cans of nitrous oxide and butane exploded last month and a teenager was killed by flying debris, officials said.

Noor Noel Kestou, 31, of Commerce, Michigan, was taken into custody on Saturday at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City after authorities learned he had a one-way ticket to Hong Kong, police said. He was arraigned on Thursday in Macomb County, Michigan, and pleaded not guilty to involuntary manslaughter, online court records show.

The fire and series of explosions occurred on March 4 at a warehouse in Clinton Township that was improperly storing canisters of butane and nitrous oxide, officials said.

Goo Smoke Shop/Select Distributors Wholesale Warehouse, a vaping products supplier, had recently received a semi-load of butane containers, over half of which was still at the facility at the time of the fire, officials said. More than 100,000 vape pens containing lithium batteries and pallets of nitrous and lighter fluid were also in the building, officials said.

The blast sent debris flying up to a half-mile in each direction, officials said. Turner Lee Salter, 19, was struck in the head and killed by a nitrous oxide canister about a quarter mile away from the fiery explosion, according to fire officials.

Fire crews spent over a week monitoring the site for “sporadic explosions, pop-up fires and continual smoke,” Clinton Township Police Capt. Anthony Coppola said at a press briefing Friday.

“This was like nothing any of us had ever seen and hope to encounter again,” Coppola said.

Involuntary manslaughter is the highest charge possible at this point in the investigation based on the evidence presented, according to Macomb County prosecutor Peter Lucido. The felony carries a maximum sentence of 15 years if convicted. More charges are possible, Lucido said.

Kestou had been cooperative in the investigation into the fire and explosion, officials said. As the owner of the business, he was the suspect from the beginning of the investigation, Lucido said. Detectives got an alert that he was planning to leave the country and a warrant was issued for his arrest, Lucido said.

“We don’t know what his ultimate goal was,” Lucido said at Friday’s press briefing. “Was it to stay out of the country with a wife and child here?”

His bond was set at $500,000 cash/surety only, which he has since posted. His bond conditions include that he must wear a GPS tether, surrender his passport, not leave the state and have no weapons, officials said. His next court hearing has been scheduled for May 7.

ABC News has reached out to Kestou’s attorney for comment.

The fire is believed to have started in the southwest corner of the building and the cause remains under investigation, Clinton Township Fire Chief Tim Duncan told reporters Friday. At this time, investigators “cannot exclude human involvement in this fire,” he said.

Federal authorities are also involved in the investigation, Duncan said.

ABC News’ Emily Shapiro contributed to this report.

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