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Woman killed in Sunset District explosion was mother of two children

The San Francisco Fire Department spray water into the home that collapsed possibly as a result of an explosion and subsequent fire. | Michaela Vatcheva for The Standard

A woman killed after a suspected drug lab explosion demolished a Sunset District home was the mother of two children, San Francisco Superior Court heard Wednesday.

The San Francisco Chief Medical Examiner's Office identified the deceased woman as 51-year-old Rita Price earlier on Wednesday.

Darron Price, the suspect in the case, appeared in court Wednesday after being charged with multiple felonies. His court arraignment was postponed until 9 a.m. Friday.

Price is charged with involuntary manslaughter, manufacturing a controlled substance, four counts of reckless burning, two counts of child endangerment and one count of elder abuse. Additionally, the criminal complaint includes allegations that Price proximately caused great bodily injury to one of the victims.

He has been granted access to speak to his two children, ages 14 and 17, after Assistant Public Defender Sierra Villaran successfully lobbied Judge Victor Hwang. The San Francisco District Attorney's Office said that Price was not the biological father of the children; the court will rule on a protective order Friday in relation to their care.

Darron Price (right) appears in San Francisco Superior Court Wednesday. | Garrett Leahy/The Standard

"We vehemently deny these accusations," Villaran said after the hearing. "Mr. Price will be exonerated. I think that it is horrific what this family is going through and what he is going through. And the amount of pain that they are processing while having Mr. Price in custody is impossible to describe."

District Attorney Brooke Jenkins announced the charges against Price ahead of his first court appearance Wednesday.

The 53-year-old was arrested Friday after the explosion on Feb. 9 that authorities said could have been caused by an illegal hash oil operation.

Law enforcement load what appears to be several gas tanks into a truck following an explosion and fire in San Francisco's Outer Sunset on Feb. 9, 2023. | Courtesy ABC7 News

The Feb. 9 explosion completely collapsed the 22nd Avenue home and ignited a fire that spread to neighboring buildings.

While sifting through the rubble, investigators say they found the Ms. Price's corpse as well as butane tanks, ovens and, per the DA, “other materials consistent with processing hash oil with volatile solvents.”

A jar of suspected hash oil unearthed in the wreckage was found to contain acetone and other dangerous and highly flammable solvents in a crime lab test, according to the DA’s Office.

Local supervisor Joel Engardio said the incident draws attention to another aspect of San Francisco’s drug crisis: the dangers posed by drug labs.

Supervisor Joel Engardio | Chris Victorio for The Standard

“Dangerous manufacturing of drugs that blows up a house and causes death and mayhem in a neighborhood is as serious as dealing deadly fentanyl in an open-air drug market,” he said in a statement.

Jenkins said her office will support the Outer Sunset neighborhood as it rebuilds—and that the charges signal the gravity of what happened.

“We must send a clear message that the manufacture of dangerous drugs will not be tolerated in San Francisco; this activity is not only dangerous for the individuals involved but entire neighborhoods as this case so tragically demonstrates,” Jenkins said in a press release.

Two GoFundMe pages have been started since the fire, one is for a family who allegedly lost everything in the fire, while the other is said to be for a caregiver who worked in the home.

Garrett Leahy can be reached at garrett@sfstandard.com