Former ATF investigator explains science behind explosion

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A former ATF investigator tells Eyewitness News how the deadly house explosion in south Indianapolis could have happened.

Natural gas explosions don't leave many clues, we're told, but a trained eye could tell right away that the explosion in the Richmond Hill subdivision was set on purpose.

"Somebody ignited it on purpose and they must have, somehow, provided either a device or some other circumstance to ignite the fuel," said Dr. John Goodpaster, an assistant professor of chemistry at IUPUI.

Seeing the pictures of the Richmond Hill explosion, Goodpaster knew what happened right away.

"That a bomb went off," he said.

It was natural gas and that the explosion was sparked on purpose.

"You could tell, based on the damage, that the only thing I could think of that would do that much damage is a gas explosion," said Goodpaster.

The former AFT investigator says there is a narrow window of opportunity for someone to do the kind of damage left behind in the south Indianapolis neighborhood.

"There is sort of a magic combination of methane and air that is extremely explosive and you have to hit that concentration. Once you are there, it is extremely sensitive - a spark or initiation would set it off," Goodpaster said.

It is the years he spent with the ATF as an investigator and a Ph.D. in chemistry from which Goodpaster bases his opinion, as well as the fact that police say they are now investigating the blast as a homicide.

Goodpaster says there is virtually no other way to do the damage that was done, other than natural gas. High explosives in the amount to level homes, he says, are not readily available, but everything someone need to know about blowing up houses is on the Internet.

The trouble that investigators will face, Goodpaster says, will be finding the device that set off the explosion. He says natural gas explosions don't leave much for investigators to find.

The science of the investigation has answered some of the questions. Now, people want to know "Why?"