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Fundraiser for family whose duplex exploded nearly triples initial goal

(Updated at 11:35 a.m.) When the GoFundMe campaign for the Smith family launched 24 hours ago, it had a goal of raising $50,000. As of publication, it has raised about $140,000.

An outpouring of support for the family that lost everything in the explosion of their Bluemont duplex has been attracting donations from across Arlington, the region and the country. More than 2,000 have donated so far, including individuals and local groups.

“We KW Barrett Elementary kids wanted to support you all,” said one note of support on the fundraising page. “We had a hot cocoa stand to raise funds to help and then added a little extra from us. Hope this helps! Sincerely, KW Barrett Fifth Graders and friends.”

Students at the school in the Arlington Forest neighborhood raised more than $260 yesterday, including from a group of police officers who stopped by, according to social media posts.

The moment the Smith’s home blew up in a giant fireball has been viewed more than 30 million times on X (formerly Twitter) alone.

While they were evacuated by first responders well before the blast, knowledge that the family of four had all of their possessions and physical memories go up in flames prompted people to almost immediately start asking — in comments and social media — how they could support them in their time of need.

Thus stepped in local real estate agent Derek Cole, close college friend of Lance Smith from their time at Oklahoma State in the mid-1990s.

While the family is “not speaking to media at this time,” Cole said, he noted that they “have enjoyed calling Northern Virginia home for many years.” They had extensively renovated their side of the duplex, he wrote on GoFundMe, “working tirelessly to create a special home for their children to flourish.”

“Thankfully, the Smith family and their their sweet dog, are alive, healthy, and very much together,” Cole wrote. “Because of the explosion,” however, “the Smith family sadly lost all their worldly possessions.”

“It is the goal of their friends and loved ones to see the Smith family get back to normal as best they can following this horrible tragedy… especially, as we approach the holiday season,” he wrote. “Please join us in supporting the Smith family as they work to restore balance in their lives and focus on their incredible family, while we also respect their privacy.”

Cole told ARLnow that he was unsure how the funds raised on GoFundMe would be used, saying that it depends on what their insurance covers.

The family’s duplex neighbor, 56-year-old James Yoo, is presumed dead in the explosion, which followed an hours-long standoff with police. Yoo suffered apparent mental health problems and three days before Monday’s incident had posted a paranoid rant against the Smiths on his LinkedIn account.

It is still not clear what triggered the massive explosion, which is being investigated by both Arlington County authorities and federal law enforcement.

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