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Explosion Kills Two Guests at the Cedar Grove Resort in
 Ellison Bay, Wisconsin;  Likely Caused by Propane Leak
By L.L. Brasier, Detroit Free PressMcClatchy-Tribune Business News

July 12, 2006 - A Bloomfield Hills couple -- both attorneys -- were killed and their three children injured in an explosion that rocked a Wisconsin vacation resort early Monday morning.

Patrick Higdon, 49, an attorney in the Birmingham office of the Clark Hill law firm, and Margaret Higdon, 45, who did contract work for General Motors Corp., died at the Cedar Grove Resort in Ellison Bay, Wis., when a blast tore through a cottage where the family was sleeping about 2:30 a.m. Margaret Higdon was known to her friends as Peggy.

Investigators were trying to determine Tuesday whether a propane line may have been broken earlier in the day during construction work near the resort, a tiny hamlet with a boat dock and small marina about 65 miles northeast of Green Bay.

The explosion reportedly decimated the cottage, a maintenance building and a nearby store.

Two of the Higdons' children were hospitalized, family friends said. Megan Higdon, 12, underwent emergency surgery at an area hospital and was expected to be released soon. Their son Patrick, 14, suffered burns and broken bones in his face and was also hospitalized. Patrick's twin, James, was treated for minor injuries, family friends said.

Margaret Higdon's mother, Margery Brooks, who was staying in an adjacent cottage, also was injured. Brooks was undergoing surgery Tuesday. James Brooks, Margaret Higdon's father, was not hurt.

Late Tuesday, investigators were still sorting through the debris, some of it blown several hundred feet from the cottage. A possible propane leak was the focus of the inquiry.

"There's been information that was a possible cause," said Gary Behling, chief deputy sheriff at the Door County Sheriff's Office. "Right now, the investigation is continuing and we're taking all the precautions necessary."

The news shocked Oakland County's legal community.

"It is incredibly sad," said Circuit Judge Fred Mester, who employed Margaret Higdon as his law clerk in 1988, and remained a friend of the family over the years. "They were kind, wonderful people, raising great kids. It's just upset us all since we heard about it."

Clark Hill, where Patrick Higdon specialized in education law at the Birmingham office, issued a written statement offering condolences. His colleagues were trying to come to grips with the news.

"Patrick was one of our leaders," said fellow attorney Reginald Turner. "This is a terrible case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Pat was a warm and engaging person."

Former Detroit newscaster Chris Hansen, now at "Dateline NBC" in New York, fought tears as he talked to the Free Press about his longtime relationship with the Higdons.

The couple sang at his wedding several years ago, and most recently, he visited with them last New Year's Eve during a trip to Michigan.

"You could not find two nicer, more fun, pleasant people to be around," Hansen said Tuesday. "I can't get my arms around the fact that they're gone."

Across the street from the Higdon family home in Bloomfield Hills, neighbors and close friends Tim and Sheryl McConaghy were contacting fellow parishioners from St. Regis Catholic Church of Bloomfield Hills, which they all attended. A mass was said Tuesday morning on behalf of the family, said the Rev. Norman Nawrocki, pastor of St. Regis. "The parish has just been devastated."

Tim McConaghy said the Higdons often vacationed in Wisconsin in the summer and that it had become something of a tradition.

"I was thinking about how they did everything right, they worked hard and built a great life," he said Tuesday afternoon. "It's hard to believe."

Funeral arrangements were pending.

Information from Gannett News Service is included in this report.

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Copyright (c) 2006, Detroit Free Press

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