Deadly blast devastates Indiana neighborhood
INDIANAPOLIS -- Splintered beams and boards on a piece of charred earth were all that remained Sunday where three Indianapolis homes were leveled in a blast that killed two people and rendered homes for blocks uninhabitable.
A backhoe raked through the rubble in the middle-class subdivision as clusters of firefighters and rescue workers, weary from a long, chaotic day that began late the night before, waited for their next assignments.
The two-story, brick-faced homes on either side of those demolished by the blast were in ruins. One home's roof was gone, a blackened husk left behind. On the other side of the gap, the side of a home was sheared off. Across the street, garage doors had buckled from the heat.
It wasn't yet clear what caused the blast that shook the neighborhood at 11 p.m. Saturday. Residents described hearing a loud boom that blew out windows and collapsed ceilings. Some thought a plane had crashed or that there had been an earthquake.
Alex Pflanzer, who was asleep when the nearby homes were leveled, said he heard his wife screaming and thought someone was breaking in his house. Grabbing his gun, he checked the house and saw the front door was standing open.
"I walked outside and all the houses were on fire," he said.
Pflanzer, his wife and two dogs were staying in a hotel room Sunday night. They were, however, without their cat, who refused to budge from the crawl space.
Deputy Code Enforcement Director Adam Collins said as many as 31 homes were damaged so badly that they may have to be demolished. The explosion damaged a total of 80 homes, he said. He estimated the damage at $3.6 million.
Some residents were allowed to return to their homes Sunday under police escort to retrieve a few belongings Sunday under police escort, officials said. Others whose homes weren't as badly damaged were allowed to go home, but officials said they would have to do without electricity overnight.
Officials did not identify the two people who were killed.
Deputy Fire Chief Kenny Bacon told reporters Sunday investigators hadn't eliminated any possible causes for the blast. But U.S. Rep. Andre Carson, who represents the area, said he had been told a bomb or meth lab explosion had been ruled out.
Bacon said the crisis could have been much worse. "I know we're very fortunate that some of the people weren't home," he said.
Bryan and Trina McClellan were at home with their 23-year-old son, Eric, when the shock wave from the blast a block away shook their home. It knocked out the windows along one side of their house, and their first instinct was to check on their grandchildren, two toddlers, who were in the basement. One held his ears and said, "Loud noise, loud noise."
Eric McClellan said he ran to the scene of the explosion and saw homes flat or nearly so.
"Somebody was trapped inside one of the houses, and the firefighters were trying to get to him. I don't know if he survived," he said, adding that firefighters ordered him to leave the area.