Richmond Hill homeowners getting first look at damage

One of the bedrooms is open to the elements.
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Families who will lose their homes due to the south side explosion are packing up what they can before their houses are torn down.

Some Richmond Hill homeowners are seeing the damage for the first time after the Nov. 10 explosion.

Peggy Pridemore and her family were busy gathering what was left after the neighborhood disaster. Everything the Pridemore family owns is destroyed, damaged or filthy and their home is collapsing on itself. Monday, they were allowed back inside for the first time since the explosion.

"You're happy that you're getting something accomplished, but it was our home. It's kind of tough," Pridemore said. "It's broken a lot of the furniture from the ceiling falling and collapsing. A lot of the dishes are still good. A lot of the furniture that wasn't in the back of the house is still good. We'll just have to move on and replace it."

She says it all still feels like a bad dream. The couple had just gone to bed when the house across their backyard exploded.

"Look at that window. There's one pane that didn't break and that glass would've gotten us," Pridemore said.

A few minutes earlier, Peggy's husband was in the backyard, walking their dog. Had the explosion happened then, he might have been seriously injured or possibly killed.

This was the family's retirement home, and the couple had planned on living there for a long time. Now they're living in an apartment figuring out their next steps.

The Pridemore's home is one of 33 the city has ordered torn down. Almost the whole block is slated for demolition. Demolition orders took effect Monday for six homes in the neighborhood, although demolition isn't expected to start until Tuesday morning, after permits are filed.

Some of the homes don't look badly damaged until you look inside.

"We have not even started on the first and second floor," said Roger Henson.

Henson says he finds more damage in his sister's family's home every day. He's helping them move out, because his sister doesn't want to come back.

"She's scared to death," he said.

Henson, with the help of his sons, will have to move everything out and don't have much time to spare. This is one of the homes that will be coming down, the south side and front of the house bear the deepest scares of the explosion. Inside, an obstacle course of broken glass and furniture thrown around is slowing down the move.

Everything from the house, a lifetime of pictures and collectibles passed down from generation to generation, are going into storage. For how long could be anyone's guess.

"I told them that you might as well sit back and relax, this ain't nothin' that is going to come fast," Henson said.

He is hoping that his sister and brother-in-law will find some peace if and when the investigation comes to an end.

Looking in from outside the neighborhood, it may be hard to understand all the fuss over Christmas lights.

But you don't know Mauren Agamie.

"It is kind of the first house you see on the way in," Agamie said.

It will be the house with the most lights. The house, residents hope, offers some peace among the chaos.

Families have just a few weeks at best to finish moving out. Many, like the Pridemores, who thought they were set for life, are having to start over.

"It's going to be rebuilt, we haven't got final estimates," said Craig Burns.

Burns will not only have to rebuild his house, but also his life. He says he and his neighbors are understandably upset, knowing the explosion was not an accident.

Many of his neighbors who spoke to Eyewitness News want to know if someone is going to be held responsible for the deadly explosion, but for Burns, "I don't know that it makes much difference to me. We just want to move on."

So far, investigators have not revealed how long it will take them to determine the source of the blast, or how, why, or who ignited the explosion.

Retired Indiana State Police investigator John Mull says cases like the Richmond Hill explosion take time.

"That's what I would find curious about doing that scene, is exactly where in that rubble did this originate. These guys are good, they'll come up with that," he said.

Law enforcement remained visible at the site of the explosion Monday, saying it is still a crime scene for an unsolved crime. Everything in the blast site has been covered up to preserve it.

The explosion claimed the lives of Dion and Jennifer Longworth, who lived next door to the one that blew up. By telephone, Dion Longworth's mother told Eyewitness News she wants investigators to take as much time as they need to find who is responsible for the blast that killed her son and daughter-in-law.

"I don't think they should be pushed, I don't think they should be encouraged to go faster, because they are trying to do it the intelligent way," said Elaine Longworth-Sgorcea.

Despite losing two neighbors in the unexplained explosion, Burns is still trying to look on the bright side.

"We're standing in front talking to you. Seriously. There's two people who aren't," he said.

Investigators are also looking at whether furniture was moved out of the home that exploded the day before the blast.