EVANSVILLE — A house explosion reverberated across a neighborhood in the southwestern Indiana city of Evansville on Wednesday, killing three people.
The explosion that occurred at about 1 p.m. Wednesday also damaged 39 surrounding structures, Fire Chief Mike Connelly said.
“We’ve made searches of the houses and most of them are unoccupied," Connelly said.
“Debris is strewn over a 100-foot (30-meter) radius," including “typical construction materials” such as wooden boards, window glass and insulation, Connelly said.
The cause of the explosion was not immediately known, he said.
Connelly says units arrived on scene within five minutes.
Aerial video posted on social media shows damage in a residential neighborhood with police and fire vehicles on the scene in Evansville, on the Kentucky border.
CenterPoint Energy, the local gas utility, was last called to the home in January 2018, Connelly said. CenterPoint issued a statement saying it “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 of this incident continues,” the utility said.
Jacki Baumgart, an office manager at Award World Trophies about two and a half blocks from the site of the explosion, said she and other employees in their building panicked when they heard the blast.
“It was loud,” Baumgart said. “There was huge smoke.”
“We thought a tree fell on the building or a car ran into the place,” she said. “Debris from the ceiling came down.”
She continued: “Everybody here immediately ran out of the building. We thought the building was going to come down.”
The Evansville explosion 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, with the explosion killing two next-door neighbors. That man, his half-brother and girlfriend all received long prison sentences.