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IN Blast Kills 2, Guts Neighborhood

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

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Federal and state authorities worked feverishly Monday (Nov. 12) to determine the cause of a massive explosion and blaze that killed two Indianapolis residents and devastated a neighborhood there over the weekend.

The explosion drove hundreds of residents from their homes, rocked houses from their foundations, and ignited fires that consumed dozens of homes over several hours. Entire blocks of homes were left uninhabitable.

No cause has been determined, but the area’s member of Congress said that a bomb and meth lab had both been ruled out. However, one fire official said no causes had been ruled out, and the owner of one of the two houses that exploded suggested that his faulty furnace might have been responsible.

Pipelines Considered

The National Transportation Safety Board and the federal Department of Transportation, which have jurisdiction over transmission pipelines, were called in to investigate. The initial reports and damage eerily echoed the San Bruno, CA, disaster of September 2010, in which a badly welded Pacific Gas & Electric pipeline blew up a neighborhood, killing eight people.

Indianapolis Explosion - Fox News image1
Photos: Fox News

The explosion and fires damaged more than 80 homes, including 31 that will have to be razed.

Citizens Energy, which supplies natural gas to the Indianapolis neighborhood, said the utility had received no complaints of a gas smell before the horrific explosion about 11 p.m. Saturday (Nov. 10).

"Most of the time when there's a gas leak, people smell it," utility spokesman Dan Considine told reporters. "But not always." 

Citizens Energy Corp. is a nonprofit corporation founded in 1979 by Joseph P. Kennedy II. Among a variety of initiatives, Citizens Energy partners with CITGO to provide home heating oil to needy people.

Utility workers were inspecting gas mains in the stricken neighborhood, but had found no leaks.

‘All the Houses were on Fire’

The blast jolted people sleeping three miles away, reports said.

Alex Pflanzer was sound asleep when his home's windows blew out and his wife started screaming, the Associated Press reported.

With his burglar alarm sounding, Pflanzer said he grabbed his gun and started searching the house. Then he noticed a glow outside his open front door.

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

80 Homes Damaged

About 80 homes were damaged, including 31 that may have to be demolished, city Deputy Code Enforcement Director Adam Collins told reporters. He estimated the initial damage at $3.6 million.

Indianapolis Explosion - Fox News image2

Two people were killed in the blast, and seven were treated for injuries. A house-to-house search by emergency personnel found no other victims.

Scores of firefighters responded to the scene, and many residents fled in their pajamas amid a shattered landscape of churning flames, blown-out windows, collapsed walls, and garage doors wrenched from their hinges. Some residents were allowed back into damaged homes briefly Sunday to recover a few items and pets.

Reports identified the two deceased victims as Jennifer Longworth, a second-grade teacher, and her husband John Dion Longworth,; they lived in one of the homes that was destroyed. Seven people were initially reported hospitalized, and rescuers were conducting a house-to-house search for anyone who might have been left behind.

Furnace Cited

The owner of the other house that exploded wondered if his furnace might have been to blame. The blast apparently originated at the home that John Shirley, 50, owned with his ex-wife, reports said. The Longworths lived next door.

Shirley told the AP that his daughter texted him last week that the furnace had gone out in the home where she lived with her mother and her mother's boyfriend.

Indianapolis Explosion - Fox News image3

Some residents were allowed to return briefly to homes to collect a few belongings.

But Shirley’s daughter also told him later that the furnace had been fixed. He said was not aware of any problems until he heard from her again Sunday morning.

'A War Zone'

"I get a text from my daughter saying `Dad, our home is gone,'" he told AP. "Then I called my ex-wife and she said what happened," he said.

Of both houses, Fire Lt. Bonnie Hensley said, “there’s nothing left.”

 “This looks like a war zone,” she told reporters. “It really does.”


Tagged categories: Accidents; Department of Transportation (DOT); Health and safety; NTSB (National Transportation Safety Board); Oil and Gas; Pipeline; Pipelines

Comment from Stephen Mellon, (11/13/2012, 9:58 AM)

Just a horrible situation....

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