Owner of exploded Michigan building arrested at airport while trying to leave US, authorities say

CLINTON TOWNSHIP, Mich. — The owner of a suburban Detroit business that caught fire and exploded, killing a man, was arrested at a New York airport as he was preparing to depart for Hong Kong on a one-way ticket, authorities said Friday.

U.S. Customs and New York Port Authority personnel arrested Noor Noel Kestou, 31, on Saturday at John F. Kennedy International Airport. He was brought back to Michigan on Wednesday.

Kestou, of Commerce Township, was arraigned Thursday on an involuntary manslaughter charge.

The March 4 fire and explosion occurred in a Clinton Township building that housed a distributor for the vaping industry called Goo. More than 100,000 vape pens were stored on-site. Authorities have said a truckload of butane canisters had arrived at the building within a week of the explosion that sent cannisters soaring up to 2 miles (3.2 kilometers), and more than half of that stock was still there when the fire began.

Turner Lee Salter, 19, was about a quarter of a mile (0.40 kilometers) away when he was struck by a nitrous oxide cannister that was propelled through the air by the explosion. Salter later died.

Authorities said they were given information on April 20 that Kestou was trying to fly to Hong Kong.

“We don’t know what his ultimate goal was,” Macomb County Prosecutor Peter Lucido told reporters Friday. “Was it to stay out of the country with a wife and child here? Nobody has a crystal ball to determine who is a flight risk.”

“He was a suspect from the beginning, being the owner of this business,” Lucido added. “Anyone that owns a business and something like this happens has to be considered a suspect.”

Lucido said involuntary manslaughter is the highest charge his office could bring, at this time, based on information and evidence in the case.

Goo had received a township occupancy permit in September 2022 for the 26,700-square-foot (2,480-square-meter) building as a retail location for a “smoke shop/vape store” that would sell paraphernalia for vape products, Clinton Township’s Building Department has said.

Clinton Township Fire Chief Tim Duncan said Friday that a cause for the fire has not yet been determined, but investigators believe the blaze started in the southwest corner of the building.

Kestou has been released from jail after posting a $500,000 bond. Lucido said authorities have his passport and that a condition of bond is that Kestou has to wear a GPS tether. A probable cause hearing is scheduled for May 7 in Clinton Township District Court.

The Associated Press left messages Friday seeking comment from Kestou’s attorney.

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