Explosion damage more widespread than first thought

Published: .
Updated: .

For the first time, Indianapolis officials are giving a timeline for clean-up in the Richmond Hill neighborhood on the Indianapolis south side.

Dion and Jennifer Longworth died in an explosion that shook the south side Saturday night. Five homes were destroyed in the blast or by subsequent fire, and now officials say more homes than previously thought may need to be demolished.

Code Enforcement has told homeowners, insurance companies and contractors that they want all damaged homes boarded up and fenced off by next Monday (Nov. 19th). By the 26th, they want to see repair efforts underway.

The Smock Golf Course has become a joint operations center for police, fire, Code Enforcement and other agencies. They are coordinating their recovery efforts as the investigation continues. A few blocks away is the actual site of the explosion.

The investigation took a big step forward Tuesday when Citizens Energy and the NTSB ruled out a gas leak in the gas lines outside the home. Now they'll shift their focus to what went wrong inside the home. They've removed the furnaces and other gas appliances from the homes in question as well as from neighboring homes.

"A gas leak inside one of the homes, potentially inside one of the appliances or gas line or something like that," said IFD Capt. Rita Burris.

Investigators are treating the half-block as a crime scene. They've questioned the home's owner, Moncy Shirley.@

"People keep asking me questions and questions like I know something. I don't know nothing.@ I just lost my house," she said Tuesday.

Shirley, her boyfriend and daughter were away for the weekend. A few weeks ago, she says her 12-year-old thought she smelled gas in the laundry room.

"I kind of, like said, I smelled something, but I don't think it is gas. Upstairs, we never smelled anything," Shirley said.

In addition to the five homes that were destroyed Saturday night, ten more may be damaged beyond repair.

For some homeowners, though, there was somewhat better news.

"We went into some properties here on the north of Armada and they've had some issues. They're gonna have to have some structural work done on the interior but it's not something that threatens the overall safety of the structures. So we've been recommending to the homeowners that everybody get a licensed electrician, a licensed HVAC contractor to go in and work with their insurance company to check it out and make sure all their fixtures and appliances and all those things are still safe," said Adam Collins, Indianapolis Code Enforcement. "It was a very large concussion that moved a lot of different things around."

At least five homes are destroyed. Ten more may be damaged beyond repair.

"They had some issues. They are going to have some structural work done in the interior, but it is not something that threatens the overall safety of the structure," Collins said of one home.

The city is pushing contractors to have damaged homes safely secured by Monday and begin the repair process. Within two weeks, officials expect the neighborhood to be cleaned up and feeling more like home.