Authorities are still working to uncover the cause of a massive explosion that rocked a suburban Indianapolis neighborhood late Saturday night. The blast and subsequent massive fire killed two people, obliterated multiple homes, and made dozens more uninhabitable.
What was once an average street in a typical middle-class subdivision now more closely resembles a war zone. The area is littered with charred debris, and blackened houses stand gaping open with their sides and roofs blown off. The homes that sat at the epicenter of the blast no longer exist and are now merely an open space filled with scorched beams and boards. Even houses across the street had their doors and windows blown out, and garage doors collapsed under the heat of the enormous fire which burned for hours. Considering the extent of the damage, fire officials are amazed only two people lost their lives.
The explosion, which happened around 11 pm Saturday night, awoke residents within a three-mile radius with a shockingly loud boom. The blast was so astounding that Dan Able, 58, who lives across the street from the homes that exploded, initially thought a plane had hit his house.
It was “a sound I’ve never heard before, it was so loud,” Able said. “Both houses across the street were on fire, basically, just rubble on fire.”
Still, despite the immense destruction, U.S. Rep. Andre Carson, who represents the area, said he was told a bomb or meth lab had been ruled out as possible causes. Additionally, the utility company had not received any calls about people smelling gas (a rotten egg odor is added to natural gas to alert people of its presence), and the company had not yet discovered any gas leaks in the neighborhood.
“We have done initial testing throughout the neighborhood and have not found any gas leaks,” Dan Considine of Citizens Energy said. “We are still doing additional testing of the gas main and the lines to the homes on Fieldfare Way. We have not at this point found any problems with any external gas lines.”
Indianapolis public safety director Troy Riggs said forensic investigators were working with the utility company and others to determine the cause.
The names of the two people killed have not been released; although, on Sunday night there was a candlelight vigil at nearby Southwest Elementary School for second-grade teacher Jennifer Longworth. Jennifer and her husband, John Longworth lived in one of the homes destroyed in the explosion.
Around 200 residents were evacuated from the neighborhood after the incident. Since then, those whose homes suffered less damage have been allowed to return (without electricity), yet many have no home to return to. Deputy Code Enforcement Director Adam Collins said 80 houses were damaged and 31 of those possibly beyond repair.