House explosion in southern Indiana kills 3, deputy coroner says

Three people were killed Wednesday when a house exploded in the southern Indiana city of Evansville, authorities said.

Dave Anson, Vanderburgh County’s chief deputy coroner, told The Associated Press that the identities of those who died would not be released until next of kin have been notified.

Evansville Fire Department Chief Mike Connelly said a total of 39 homes were damaged in the explosion at about 1 p.m. He said the department has not confirmed how many of the homes were occupied when the explosion occurred because “some of them were too weak to go in.”

Connelly said earlier that at least three people were injured. It was not immediately clear if those believed to have been injured later died.

The cause of the explosion is not certain, but the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives was investigating.

“Debris is spread over a 100-foot radius,” including “typical building materials” such as wood boards, window glass and insulation, Connelly said.

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 called to the home in January 2018, Connelly said. CenterPoint released a statement saying it was “working 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 into this incident continues,” the utility said.

Jacki Baumgart, 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 loud explosion and saw smoke.

“We thought a tree fell on the building or a car ran into the place,” Baumgart said. “Debris came down from the ceiling.”

She continued: “Everybody here ran out of the building immediately. We thought the building was going to come down.”

It was the second house explosion in the area in just over five years. A house explosion on June 27, 2017, killed two people and injured three others.

Wednesday’s blast in 2012 that destroyed or damaged more than 80 homes on Indianapolis’ south side and killed two people also brought to mind a massive explosion. A man was convicted of tampering with a natural gas line at his then-girlfriend’s home in an attempt to commit insurance fraud, and the explosion killed two next-door neighbors. That man, his half-brother and his girlfriend received long prison sentences.

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