Richmond Hill residents struggle to return to normal after blast

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Families who live in a devastated south side neighborhood are dealing with frustration and fear as they try to regroup after last weekend's explosion.

Children are worried to stay in their homes and parents still wondering about the true cause of the explosion. Slowly, the answers are starting to come.

"We got a lot of counseling information for children, for any type of structural, any type of information that we're needing. Of course, the future, we're all still trying to figure out what the future's going to hold, because of the damage," said Richmond Hill resident Shawn Sullivan.

Sullivan and his family spent most of Tuesday evening in a community meeting with a hope of getting a better handle on their future. Their house is one of those damaged by the explosion. They knew who to call for insurance issues or utilities, but the one question that was not answered is arguably the most important - what caused the explosion?

"We want to hear the correct of what they tell us, before you comment on something like that," Sullivan said.

Like most of his neighbors, Sullivan is insured and will someday return home.

"Our neighborhood will never be the same," he said.

Eventually, all of the windows will be replaced, garage doors repaired and siding put back on the homes, but not before 29 homes are torn down. The lasting scars will be the memory of the night.

Just an hour after the explosion, Michael Kouner and his father had found their way to Mary Bryan Elementary School. Michael had pulled a woman from her burning house, saving her life.

"I'm doing alright," he said Tuesday. "I just keep seeing the image over and over of the house just gone, just the girl standing there in her house, face covered in blood from here down, screaming, trapped in her house."

The 17-year-old will carry the image of his childhood neighborhood destroyed with him for the rest of his life.

Earlier version

As the investigation into the deadly explosion on the Indianapolis south side enters its third day, residents are struggling to get their lives back into a routine.

The Indianapolis Fire Department says its Fire Investigations Section has determined that there is no evidence to suggest a clandestine meth lab.

Also, the NTSB confirms they have left Indianapolis and found nothing in Richmond Hill that warrants further investigation. The NTSB arrived Sunday and began to survey the explosion situation. The agency found nothing faulty underground in the gas lines.

IFD says it's transitioning from the response phase to the recovery phase. The scene has been secured and emergency management will focus on helping the displaced homeowners. Crews are beginning to remove debris from the neighborhood.

The Department of Code Enforcement will stay on the scene at the Richmond Hill subdivision to determine the stability of homes. Twenty-nine homes are considered to be uninhabitable while another 36 may need shoring up before residents can live in them again.

The ATF continues to assist and provide support in the investigation.

Investigators' focus will remain on the homes on Fieldfare Way. The cause is still unknown, and may take weeks to determine. At a news conference Monday, Citizens Energy said it was still too early to tell if it was a gas leak. The owner of the home that blew up said the home's furnace might have been faulty, but Citizens said they never had any reports of a faulty furnace.

As of Tuesday, IFD says it's awaiting tests from utility sources and the Fire Investigations Section.

Many of the residents who were evacuated have been allowed to return home once the structure was deemed safe by structural engineers. However, they still face expensive repairs. Even more challenging is the task of repairing their sense of security.

Resident Helene Ray said despite the ordeal, she's counting her blessings.

"I feel so fortunate. I said I feel like a jerk that we were so fortunate compared to what other neighbors experienced," she said. "The kids are having a hard time falling asleep and it's hard at night to go to bed."

The American Red Cross, MESH and IFD chaplains are providing counseling and emotional support to victims.

The explosion created a blast so loud and powerful that it knocked homes off their foundations and shattered glass windows. Many homes had their windows blown out.

Access to the neighborhood is limited to residents. Code Enforcement and IFD is escorting them into homes if they need to claim their possessions.

IPL has restored power to all but six homes in the affected area.