Richmond Hill residents continue to rebuild after explosion

Some homeowners in Richmond Hill have begun rebuilding on empty lots.

Six months after a home in the Richmond Hill subdivision exploded, killing a school teacher and her husband, the neighborhood is a construction zone. On almost every street, crews are building, rebuilding and repairing the dozens of homes damaged in the November blast.

Joan Ferguson's house received only minor damage. On a recent walk, she counted seven new homes, rising out of ugly, empty lots.

"It was exciting. I'm, like, 'Good for them'," she said. "I'm proud of the people who chose to stay."

Nick Hlavaty is one of those people, building a new home, on the same spot his old one was destroyed.

"I can't imagine anywhere else to live. This is a good place, this is why I chose it," he explained with conviction.

The unimaginable occurred in November. A horrific explosion laid waste to the Richmond Hill neighborhood. Roughly 30 homes were destroyed, 100 damaged and two people killed.

Shock turned to anger as families saw their neighbors arrested and accused of setting the explosion to get rich off the insurance.

Construction permits approved by the Indianapolis Department of Code Enforcement show almost half the destroyed homes are in the process of being rebuilt. Nearly two dozen homes that were heavily damaged are getting major repairs or complete restoration.

Almost a block away from the explosion, a home is getting new brick work, new siding, new windows, a new roof, new doors and a lot more on the inside.

The homeowner is investing in a new kitchen, new flooring and other comforts. Another 18 homes are on the contractor's waiting list.

"I've built houses for 35 years. I've never remodeled like this before," said Ric Winters of Remodeling Services & Complete Restoration. "It's incredible."

It's also an ordeal for residents. On top of enduring homes destroyed, possessions lost and lives uprooted, Hlavaty says he and others have spent half a year, "working with insurance and builders and the tax collector. I worked more doing this than when I had a job."

The work isn't nearly done. Many home lots are empty, some are for sale. Their owners are trying moving on.

"Ground Zero," as residents call it, the place where the explosion occurred and two neighbors were killed, is still an ugly crime scene. Surrounded by a tall chain link fence, the charred concrete foundations and debris is a constant reminder of a tragedy families will never forget, but are working hard to put behind them.