IBJNews

Authorities seek cause, assess damages of fatal explosion

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

An explosion that rocked a southeast-side Indianapolis neighborhood Saturday, killing two residents, caused millions of dollars in damages and will require extensive cleanup.

Indianapolis Deputy Code Enforcement Director Adam Collins said 80 homes were damaged in the Richmond Hill neighborhood, including 31 homes that might need to be demolished. He estimated the damage at $3.6 million.

About 200 people were evacuated from the neighborhood near Sherman Drive and Stop 11.

Citizens Energy Group said gas remains shut off to about 30 residents on Fieldfare Way, where the center of the blast occurred. An initial survey of gas mains throughout the neighborhood did not identify any gas leaks.

Authorities have not determined what set off the explosion, but said Monday morning that the suspected cause is natural gas.
Fire officials expressed amazement that only two people died in the late Saturday explosion so powerful that the devastation spread for blocks from its epicenter. Windows and doors were blown in. The blast rocked several houses entirely from their foundations and was so loud it awoke people three miles away. A fire burned for hours, engulfing dozens of homes.

Officials have not released the identities of the two people killed. A candlelight vigil was held Sunday night at Southwest Elementary School in nearby Greenwood for second-grade teacher Jennifer Longworth. She and her husband, John Dion Longworth, lived in one of the homes destroyed in the blast. WTHR-TV reported that friends, family and colleagues of the teacher gathered at the school.

Early Monday, Indianapolis public safety director Troy Riggs said forensic investigators were talking with utility companies and others as they tried to determine the exact cause.

"We need to make sure that we get some of the forensics back and that we follow where the evidence takes us," Riggs told WISH-TV.

U.S. Rep. Andre Carson, who represents the area, has said he had been told a bomb or meth lab explosion had been ruled out.

Deputy Fire Chief Kenny Bacon said investigators hadn't ruled out any possible causes.

Citizens Energy had received no calls from people in the area smelling the rotten eggs of a chemical added to natural gas, which is odorless, utility spokesman Dan Considine said.

"Most of the time when there's a gas leak, people smell it," he said. "But not always."

Carson said the National Transportation Safety Board and the federal Department of Transportation, which have oversight over pipelines, were sending investigators.

Riggs said police officers and investigators would continue to search and secure the neighborhood on Monday.

"It could take some time. We've asked people to be patient," Riggs told WRTV.

Dan Able, a 58-year-old state employee who lives across the street from the flattened homes, was puzzled by the blast.

"I'm wondering about all the possibilities it could be," he said.

Authorities set up relief operations at a school and church to shelter those displaced in the blast. Some moved in with friends and relatives. Others found hotel rooms.

Alex Pflanzer was sound asleep when the explosion blew out his windows and his wife started to scream.

"I didn't know what was going on," Pflanzer said. "I thought someone was breaking in the house, because the alarm was going off."

Pflanzer grabbed his gun and checked the house. Then he noticed the front door was open and saw a reddish glow flickering outside.

"I walked outside and all the houses were on fire," he said.

The Pflanzers and their two dogs found a hotel room, but they couldn't coax their panic-stricken cat out of a crawlspace.

"All the material things can be replaced, so I'm not worried about that stuff," he said. "People are a lot worse off than I am. People died, and so our thoughts and prayers go out to them first."

Some residents were allowed to return to their homes under police escort Sunday, but just to retrieve a few belongings. Others whose homes weren't as badly damaged were allowed to return, but officials said they would have to do without electricity overnight. And others, officials said, never will be allowed to go back inside their homes.

"There are houses that will have to be torn down," Bacon said.

He said the toll could have been much worse. "I know we're very fortunate that some of the people weren't home," he said.

Officials said at least two dozen off-duty police officers who live on the city's south side rushed to the scene to help with the rescue effort. More than 80 firefighters battled flames and searched the wreckage of homes for trapped survivors.

At the Southport Presbyterian Church shelter, tables were piled high with blankets, food, diapers, water and other supplies. An animal shelter on the south side of the city offered free boarding for pets whose owners had nowhere to take them.

Rev. Rob Hock said hundreds of congregants had shown up to help after he put out a call during Sunday morning services.

ADVERTISEMENT

Post a comment to this story

COMMENTS POLICY
We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
 
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
 
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in IBJ editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
 
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
 
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.
 

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by
ADVERTISEMENT

facebook - twitter on Facebook & Twitter

Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ on Facebook:
Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ's Tweets on these topics:
 
Subscribe to IBJ
  1. The Walgreens did not get a lot of traffic. It was not located on the corner of the intersection, and not really visible from Emerson. Meanwhile the CVS there is huge and right on the corner. I am guessing a lot of people drove by a million times and never knew the Walgreens was there. Although, with the new Walmart market going in, that area could really see a lot of increase in traffic soon.

  2. You folks don't have a clue. There is a legal way to enter this country and to get aid. This left unchecked could run us to ruin quickly. I also heard that 'supporters' were getting major $$ to take them in? Who's monitoring this and guess who pays the bill? I support charitable organizations... but this is NOT the way to do it!

  3. Apparently at some time before alcohol has been served at the fair. The problem is that beer or wine used to be a common drink for people before soft drinks and was not thought to be that unusual. Since many folks now only drink to see how much they can drink or what kind of condition they can end up in it becomes more problematic. Go to Europe and its no big deal just as if you had sodas of milk to drink everyday. Its using common sense that is lacking now days.

  4. To address the epic failure of attracting race fans to both the Indy 500 and Brickyard 400 would take too much of my time to write. Bottom line Boles is clueless and obviously totally out of touch with the real paying fan base. I see nothing but death spin coming for the Brickyard, just like Indy. Get somebody in a place of power that understands what race fans want.

  5. I am a race fan through & through. It doesn't matter if it's Indy cars or Nascar. I love a great race. I go to several other tracks each year and you can see the entire track. I know Indy has tradition, but fans want to see the entire race. I sit in the Penthouse, am almost 60 years old, and would like to see a better TV screen in turn 1 so you can see the entire race. Then I think Indy needs to install an escalator so us old folks can make it up to the Penthouse and down again if we want more options to purchase food and drinks. Just a race fans opinion. Lights won't make the race any better, but you might be able to see the TV better at night. Turn 1's screen needs replaced with a better and bigger screen.

ADVERTISEMENT