Riggs: Gas "suspected" cause of explosion

Public Safety Director Troy Riggs
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The official cause of Saturday night's fatal explosion on the Indianapolis south side is still unknown, but Public Safety Director Troy Riggs said Monday morning that the suspected cause of the explosion is natural gas.

"That's what we suspect as the main cause of this. Obviously, everyone thinks that. They're all talking that way," Riggs said. "But, we have to do our investigation.  That's why we're going through the rubble, making sure we understand what caused this - what ignited this - if it was gas, if it was something else."

See a map showing the status of the damaged or destroyed houses.

"Right now, everyone's leaning toward gas," he explained, "but we just won't know until the investigation's final."

Gary Coons with Department of Public Safety tells Eyewitness News that the NTSB is the latest group to join the investigation. They arrived last night and will spend the day at the site. They oversee the gas line up to the meter. Coons said there is no indication to think there was a gas leak outside, but they have to rule it out.

Also, DPS said there were higher gas usage readings for the house in question compared to other homes in recent days, although Citizens Energy Group said they are not confirming that.

Investigators are continuing interviews Monday, including the homeowner of the house in question.

A Greenwood Schools teacher and her husband are believed to have died in the blast. Seven others were injured, five homes were destroyed and 80 were damaged. Thirty-one of those homes may need to be demolished.

"We want to make sure we do a good job of investigating this so that we know everything that occurred," Riggs said, but added, "It's the worst gas explosion that I've ever seen."

Riggs also reminded everybody that the investigation is only 30 hours old, and that the emergency responders have spent the bulk of that time dousing fires and making sure residents were safe, rather than sifting through rubble to determine a cause.

Deputy Fire Chief Kenny Bacon told reporters Sunday investigators haven't ruled out any possible causes of the late-night blast that was heard miles away.

But a congressman who represents the Indianapolis neighborhood says investigators have ruled out a bomb or a meth lab.

U.S. Rep. Andre Carson said he had received that report from Homeland Security officials during a tour of the devastated middle-class subdivision.

Citizens Gas says it hasn't been able to find any leaks in the system, although a natural gas leak is suspected.

A company spokesman says any leaks here, or in your neighborhood, would be obvious.

"We put an odor in gas. Typically when there's a leak people smell the gas, because it's an unmistakable odor. Usually when there's a leak people will detect it," explained Dan Considine.

Citizens says its crews have checked all gas mains in the area of the Richmond Hill subdivision and found no leaks. The investigation will continue.

Deputy Code Enforcement Director Adam Collins estimated the damage at $3.6 million.

Residents described a loud boom that shook their homes, blew out windows and collapsed ceilings.

Eywitness News has confirmed the NTSB is now on the scene investigating the explosion.

See a slide show of images from the explosion aftermath.

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