EVANSVILLE, Ind. (AP) — Authorities worked Thursday to determine the cause of a house explosion in a southern Indiana neighborhood that killed three people and left another person hospitalized.
The explosion Wednesday afternoon in Evansville damaged 39 homes and crews on Thursday morning completed a secondary search of buildings that had been left unstable by the explosion and no more victims were found, Fire Chief Mike Connelly told reporters.
“It’s a huge relief, for everybody,” the chief said of the results of the secondary search.
Eleven of the damaged homes were uninhabitable and will have to be demolished, Connelly said, and finding a cause is expected to be a “very tedious process — and lengthy.”
The Vanderburgh County Coroner’s Office identified the victims Thursday as a married couple, 43-year-old Charles Hite and 37-year-old Martina Hite, and 29-year-old neighbor Jessica Teague.
The cause and manner of their deaths are pending autopsies, the office said.
Suzanne Dabkowski, a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, spokeswoman, said Thursday the agency can’t speak to any possible causes of the explosion. Dabkowski said the ATF has certified explosive specialists and certified firearms investigators on-site in Evansville, and currently they were assisting in the investigation.
Evansville is located along Indiana’s border with Kentucky. The blast left debris strewn over a 100-foot (30-meter) radius. Debris included construction materials like wooden boards, window glass and insulation.
CenterPoint Energy, the local gas utility, was last called to the home in January 2018, Connelly said Wednesday.
“CenterPoint Energy is working closely with the Evansville Fire Department, State Fire Marshal and other agencies as the investigation of this incident continues,” the utility said.
It was the second house explosion in the area in just over five years. A house explosion on June 27, 2017killed two people and injured three others.
Wednesday’s explosion also brought to mind a massive blast in 2012 that destroyed or damaged more than 80 homes on Indianapolis’ south side 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.