Chicago (CBS) – A woman died in a home explosion late Wednesday morning in New Chicago, Indiana.
The explosion occurred shortly before 11:30 in a home on the 600 block of East 29th Avenue in New Chicago, according to NIPSCO.
The cause of the explosion is under investigation, but it was likely the result of a natural gas leak, said New Chicago Fire Chief Joe Eakins.
Neighbors described smelling natural gas over the past two days.
“What that tells me is that there is an enormous amount of potential – as I said, it’s under investigation – but an enormous amount of gas buildup within the structure; and I have no idea what caused the explosion,” Eakins said.
Neighbors described hearing two explosions, the first so powerful that it shook homes a block away.
Two neighbors said they tried to rescue the woman who was inside the house at the time of the explosion. They said they ran toward the house as it caught fire. A neighbor said he heard the woman screaming for help.
“Imagine a hot and sunny day, but ten times hotter,” said neighbor Emiliano Casas. “It was one of those kinds of heat. The flames, I mean I went out and took the video because it was burning. There was glass everywhere. It’s crazy how that happened.”
Part of the house collapsed when that neighbor got there. He said he went inside, took the woman by the hands, but her body was under the kitchen utensils, wedged between the stove and the refrigerator. He was able to get her out about halfway through when a piece of wood landed on her. He said he was trying to find something to raise the stove and refrigerator, but the fire “got up quickly.”
That neighbor said he was devastated, and wished he could have done more to save the woman.
Fire crews from three area departments worked to contain the flames from the fire, but the home was a total loss.
NIPSCO crews were on the scene Wednesday afternoon to help investigate and ensure the safety of other homes.