39 structures damaged after deadly home explosion

Friday, August 12, 2022
39 structures damaged after deadly home explosion
The damage to the area where homes were damaged after a house explosion with multiple agencies on the scene on Aug. 10, 2022 in Evansville, Ind.

Three people are dead after a house exploded in southern Indiana, officials said.

Dozens of firefighters responded to the scene in Evansville, after the blast occurred Wednesday afternoon on the 1000 block of North Weinbach Avenue, officials said.

Three deaths have been reported to the Vanderburgh County Coroner's Office as a result of the explosion, Chief Deputy Coroner David Anson said in a statement.

Two of the victims were in the home that exploded, while the third was not, according to Evansville Fire Chief Mike Connelly.

The victims were identified by the coroner's office on Thursday as Charles Hite, 43, and Martina Hite, 37, who both lived in the home, and their next-door neighbor, 29-year-old Jessica Teague.

One person was also taken to the hospital with non-life-threatening injuries, Connelly said.

The home where the explosion occurred was destroyed and 39 other structures were "damaged severely or suffered minor damage," Connelly told reporters Wednesday evening. The Knight Township Trustee's Office was among the buildings damaged and will be closed for the foreseeable future, officials said.

According to Evansville's building department, 11 of the 39 homes damaged in the explosion are uninhabitable, Connelly said.

Some 60 firefighters were on the scene assisting, Connelly said.

A 100-foot radius around the blast was not immediately searchable and some buildings were not safe to enter, Connelly said, who noted there could be other victims. Though no additional victims have been found following a search and nobody is unaccounted for at this time, he said on Thursday.

The cause of the explosion is under investigation. Connelly had initially said investigators ruled out an intentional ignition source and believed it to be accidental, though he later retracted that statement.

"The cause is undetermined," he said.

CenterPoint Energy arrived following the blast and "made the scene safe," Connelly said. "There was no detection of gas and they're restoring service now."

Natalie Hedde, a spokesperson for CenterPoint Energy, told reporters there was no work being done in the area at the time of the incident and the company had not received any phone calls "suggesting there was a natural gas emergency."

Continued surveys have shown no indications of natural gas being detected on the outside of the structure, she said.

"At this time we feel confident there are no challenges with CenterPoint Energy's natural gas system," Hedde said.

Evansville Mayor Lloyd Winnecke was on-site surveying the damage.

"There's a big investigation and cleanup effort underway," Winnecke told ABC Evansville affiliate WEHT Wednesday.

An off-duty Evansville police officer reported the explosion, the mayor said.

"It felt like an earthquake," Max Walter, who works near the site of the explosion, told WEHT. "I'm at a loss for words as to the extent of what this is."

The block where the incident occurred "will be shut down for the foreseeable future," the Evansville Police Department said.

"As more information becomes available, the respective agencies investigating will be able to provide more information," the department said.

ABC News' Darren Reynolds contributed to this report.

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