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Neighbor: 'He was just concerned about Jennifer'

Posted at 1:01 PM, Jan 27, 2016
and last updated 2016-01-27 13:01:08-05

FORT WAYNE, Ind. -- Dion Longworth's neighbors found him trapped in the basement of his burning home, looking up through a basketball-sized hole. He only had two questions: "Where is my wife?" and, "Are you going to be able to help me?"

"To this day I'm amazed at how calm he was," said Bryan Hollingsworth, one of Longworth's neighbors who rushed to help him after the 2012 Richmond Hill Explosion. "He was just concerned about Jennifer. And, obviously, if we were going to be able to help him."

MORE | 'Once the floor caved in, I knew that was it' | Autopsy confirms how Longworths died | Father remembers son, daughter-in-law killed in explosion | Jury hears from victims' mothers, firefighters who tried to save Dion Longworth

Hollingsworth testified Wednesday morning at the trial of explosion suspect Bob Leonard, Jr. He told jurors he was one of the last people to see Dion Longworth alive. Longworth's wife, Jennifer, was killed instantly when the house next door at 8349 Fieldfare Way exploded on Nov. 10, 2012. Firefighters were unable to rescue Dion Longworth before flames overtook the house and forced them back. The Longworths' bodies weren't recovered until the next day, once the fires had finally been subdued.

Hollingsworth, his wife Heather and their neighbor, retired IMPD officer Stephen Pridemore, arrived at the Longworth house before firefighters. They were the first to realize Dion was still alive and trapped in the basement. Hollingsworth's full testimony from Wednesday follows:

9:54 a.m. – Bryan Hollingsworth, 8414 Alcona Drive, called as witness.

Hollingsworth: "The loudest sound I've ever heard in my life erupted. I kind of sat up and didn't know what happened. I looked into the kitchen and all I saw was dust and glass shards. Our kitchen cabinets had opened up and jettisoned the contents. My wife was wiping glass shards off her body, and my dog was kind of shaking."

9:57 a.m. – Hollingsworth: "At the time, I was a teaching assistant and one of my students was Catherine Olvey. I said to my wife, 'Oh my gosh, that could be Catherine's house.'"

Hollingsworth: "What would have been the north side of our house, the drywall had popped. [My wife] pushed the wall and it moved four inches and you could see outside."

10:00 a.m. – Hollingsworth says he and his wife ran over to Fieldfare Way where the Longworth residence was.

Hollingsworth: "Heather yelled, 'Is anybody in there?' Instantly we heard a rapping on the wall, and Dion Longworth said, 'I'm in here. I'm trapped!'"

Hollingsworth: "We finally found a hole about the size of a basketball. Dion popped his head out and said, 'Where's my wife?' and, 'Are you going to be able to help me?' That's all he said. All I could think to say was, 'Stay with me.'"

10:05 a.m. – Hollingsworth: "To this day I'm amazed at how calm he was. He was just concerned about Jennifer. And, obviously, if we were going to be able to help him."

Hollingsworth: "Behind him, the house had caught on fire. I didn't want him to turn around and see what was going on. About that time a firefighter arrived, and in a voice I can only describe as panicked, he yelled into his radio, 'Entrapment! Entrapment! We need water on the rear of the house now!'"

Hollingsworth: "The firefighter looked at me and said, 'You're dismissed.' I put my flashlight down and I placed my hands against the side of the house and could feel the pads of my fingers burning."

10:07 a.m. – Hollingsworth: "[Dion] said Jennifer was in their bedroom upstairs. I didn't have the heart to tell him there was no upstairs. He was incredibly calm, and his only concern was for his wife."

Hollingsworth said he eventually retreated from the house due to the heat: "I looked back at the house and it was an inferno. Everything was on fire. What I couldn't see, but my wife could, was the back part of the house had caught fire and it was coming toward us."

10:15 a.m. – Hollingsworth on the Longworths: "They were lovely people. A lively young couple. Probably about the best neighbors you could have."

Hollingsworth on damage to his home: "To this day, even though we've rebuilt, we turn our spotlights on and you can still see glass shards in the yard, three years later."

Hollingsworth says a firefighter had to retrieve clothes from their bedroom because it was deemed too unsafe for them to re-enter.

10:18 a.m. – Hollingsworth: "My wife had glass shards in her eye and her nose. We also think she had a concussion."

Hollingsworth on change to his dog, Buster: "The explosion changed Buster's personality. He hates to be alone. He shakes for no reason. Any time he thinks Heather or I are leaving, he panics. We have to put him in a diaper whenever we go out."

10:23 a.m. – Hollingsworth dismissed.

Leonard faces more than 50 felony counts for his alleged role in the explosion. His half-brother, Mark Ray Leonard, was convicted in July and sentenced to two consecutive life sentences, plus 75 years. Their alleged co-conspirator, Monserrate Shirley, reached a plea deal with prosecutors last January and will face a maximum of 50 years in prison after testifying in the remaining trials related to the case.

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Call 6 Investigator Rafael Sanchez and Senior Digital Correspondent Jordan Fischer will be in Fort Wayne covering the trial every day. Download the RTV6 app to get the latest live blog posts as the proceedings unfold.

FOLLOW | Rafael Sanchez on Twitter | Jordan Fischer on Twitter

RELATED LINKS | Richmond Hill Special Section |  Mark Ray Leonard convicted on all counts

PREVIOUS | Timeline of events | Gallery: The Richmond Hill Explosion | Where were you at 11:11 PM?

INTERACTIVE MAP | Residents relive Richmond Hill explosion

 


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