Evansville, Indiana – Three people were killed Wednesday when a house exploded in the southern Indiana city of Evansville, authorities said.
Dave Anson, deputy chief of the Vanderburg County Criminal Court, told The Associated Press that the identities of the people who died will not be released until the next of kin are notified.
Evansville Police Department spokeswoman Sgt. Anna Gray said at least one more injury was reported and the victim was taken to a local hospital for treatment.
Mike Connelly, chief of the Evansville Fire Department, said a total of 39 homes were damaged by the blast at about 1 p.m. He said the administration would not confirm how many homes were inhabited when the blast occurred because “some of them were too unstable to get in.”
Connelly told the Evansville Courier & Press that at least 11 of the 39 homes damaged were “uninhabitable.”
The cause of the explosion has not been determined, but the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives is investigating. A phone message requesting comment was left at the IATA’s Evansville field office.
“Debris is scattered over a 100-foot (30-meter) radius,” including “typical building materials” such as shingles, window glass and insulation, Connelly said.
An aerial video posted on social media shows damage to a residential neighborhood with police and fire trucks at the scene in Evansville, on the Kentucky border.
Connelly said CenterPoint Energy, the local gas company, was last called home in January 2018. CenterPoint issued a statement saying it had “worked with first responders to secure the area.”
“CenterPoint Energy is working closely with the Evansville Fire Department, State Fire Marshal and other agencies as the investigation into this incident continues,” the facility said.
Jackie Baumgart, an office manager at the World Awards Awards two and a half blocks from the site of the explosion, said she and other building employees panicked when they heard the explosion and saw smoke.
“We thought a tree had fallen on the building or a car had crashed,” Baumgart said. “Roof wreckage came down.”
She continued, “Everyone here immediately ran away from the building. We thought the building was going to collapse.”
This is the second home eruption in the area in just over five years. A house explosion on June 27, 2017, killed two people and wounded three others.
Wednesday’s explosion also brought to mind a massive explosion in 2012 that destroyed or damaged more than 80 homes on the south side of Indianapolis and killed two people. A man was convicted of tampering with a natural gas line at his then-girlfriend’s home in an attempt to commit insurance fraud, in which the explosion killed two next-door neighbors. This man, his half-brother and his girlfriend were all sentenced to long prison terms.