Two killed, homes flattened in south Indianapolis explosion

A fire burns in a south Indianapolis neighborhood. (Photo: Bill Grossman)

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Two people were killed and about two dozen homes were damaged by an explosion in a south side Indianapolis neighborhood late Saturday night.

Indianapolis Fire, Indianapolis Police, the ATF, Homeland Security and other agencies are investigating. A gas leak is suspected but investigators have not yet been able to get close enough to the source to confirm the cause.

Five people were hospitalized with non-life-threatening injuries. St. Francis Hospital says it has admitted one patient in connection with the explosion.

The explosion was reported shortly after 11 p.m. near South Sherman Drive and Stop 11 Road on the south side of Indianapolis. Bonnie Hensley with the Indianapolis Fire Department says the original explosion was on Fieldfare Way in the Richmond Hill subdivision. Homes on both sides of Alcona Drive were damaged. She added that more than 100 firefighters responded to the fire.

IFD has confirmed at least two people died in the explosion. Fire officials say the victims were in one or both of the houses that were destroyed by the explosion.

IMPD tell Eyewitness News four victims have been transported to Wishard Hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.  No critical injuries were reported, aside from the fatalities.

Citizens Energy Group tells Eyewitness News they have had crews on the scene since the explosion happened. Citizens spokesman Dan Considine said so far they haven't determined that a gas leak was actually the cause of the explosion. He said there were no calls about a gas leak before the explosion.

Photos from the scene show a large fireball. Emergency crews from across the city have responded to the scene.

"Multiple houses engulfed in flames. Even the police officers that got to the scene before I did were not sure what happened. Kind of a surreal scene, even for police officers," said Marion County Sheriff John Layton.

Layton said he saw firefighters and police officers - some of them retired - going door-to-door, working to make sure residents were safe and taken care of.

"I didn't see a whole lot going on where anyone was seriously injured at that time, but then I backed off to let firefighters do their job," Layton said.

Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard told Eyewitness News he knew of two homes that were flattened by the explosion and video from the scene showed several more damaged. Two homes next to the two that exploded were heavily damaged.

The cause of the explosion has not yet been determined, but firefighters say it was not due to a plane crash, which had been spread via social media reports shortly after the explosion.

Neighbors of the home where the explosion happened say the woman who lives in the home and her children were out of town, but the status of the woman's boyfriend is not known at this time.

Flames and smoke were still being reported almost an hour after the explosion was first reported.

"It was just the loudest thing I ever heard, inside my house," said Julie Hamm, who lives in the area. She said two or three minutes later, cotton-like metal debris was falling from the sky.

Another homeowner told Eyewitness News his house shook and "teeter-tottered" on its foundation.

The entire neighborhood has been evacuated and power has been turned off to the homes in the subdivision.

Neighborhoods in the area are being evacuated. IndyGo buses were being used to transport residents to Mary Bryan Elementary School, where shelter is being set up for evacuees. Around 200 people came to the school and firefighters say 15-25 will spend the night there.

Everyone else is being shuttled to Southport Presbyterian Church to be picked up by family and friends.

Some people have been reported missing, but firefighters are not sure if they made their own way to the evacuation center.

The Red Cross says they have received enough donated supplies to meet their current needs. Those who still want to donate can send monetary donations to the American Red Cross, whose representatives remain at Mary Bryan Elementary School to accept those donations.

Those residents in need of supplies can still pick them up at the school.

Inspectors from the Department of Code Enforcement will canvass the neighborhood to determine which homes are safe for residents to return. The Department of Homeland Security also responded to the scene. No one will be allowed back into the area until at least Sunday.

Eyewitness News viewers as far away as Greenfield reported hearing and feeling the explosion.

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Viewer photos after the explosion
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