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Richmond Hill: Jurors hear panicked 911 calls

Posted at 3:36 PM, Jan 21, 2016
and last updated 2016-01-21 15:56:17-05

FORT WAYNE, Ind. -- Hundreds of panicked callers overloaded Marion County's 911 lines on the night of the Richmond Hill Explosion, fearing everything from a plane crash to a car hitting their house.

Marion County Sheriff's Department employee Ada Townsend, who serves as the "keeper of records" in the emergency calls division, said Indianapolis 911 received 274 calls on the night a house exploded in the Richmond Hill subdivision in 2012.

RELATED | LIVE BLOG: Defense, prosecution make opening statements in Bob Leonard trial

Townsend compiled a collection of approximately 21 calls received that night and put them on a tape that was played for jurors Thursday afternoon at explosion suspect Bob Leonard's trial in Allen County.

As the calls flooded in, 911 dispatchers became so overloaded that callers couldn't reach the emergency personnel. Callers began phoning into Beech Grove, Lawrence and Cumberland dispatches to relay information – including the first call alerting 911 operators that Jennifer and Dion Longworth were still trapped in their home.

Leonard's defense team declined the opportunity to cross-examine Townsend.

Excerpts from some of those calls are below:

"I'm on 8400 Flipper Court … there was a house that exploded. It was a house … I think it was a gas explosion. It's in Richmond Hill. It was a huge explosion. Our whole house rattled. Heard a huge explosion, saw a fireball going up in the air. It seemed like a gas explosion."

"Something hit my house really, really hard. I don't know what it was. I'm not going outside."

"Do you know if there are like aftershocks going on? My apartment building just shook like crazy. It almost felt like it was a blast."

"I've heard cars blow up. I've heard dynamite blow up. But I've never heard anything like this. It was big and deep and loud. It sounded like maybe a gas station blew up or one of those big natural gas tanks people keep."

"Does anybody have any idea what the hell just exploded on the south side?"

"I actually live in the Richmond Hill neighborhood and we just heard there was a plane crash there."

"What's going on over here? I'm scared and I live alone."

"Something just hit my house. Like a car hit it. It felt like that."

"We got four burglar alarms, and I talked to the homeowner and he said there was an explosion. I asked him if he was OK and he said he didn't know. He said, 'I have to get out of here,' and then he hung up.'"

"Hey, we're going to need a few medics at Mary Bryan School. There was an explosion and they're starting to walk over across the field."

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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.

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

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