EVANSVILLE – The cause for the Weinbach Avenue house explosion that killed three people and left scores of homes uninhabitable was still unknown Monday morning.
The Vanderburgh County Coroner's office identified the three victims as Charles Hite, 43, Martina Hite, 37, and 29-year-old Jessica Teague. The Hites lived at 1010 N. Weinbach Ave., the epicenter of the blast, and were inside when it happened, officials said. Their home was destroyed.
Here's what we know as of Monday morning.
The victims of the Evansville house explosion
The Hites were about a month away from celebrating their sixth wedding anniversary, according to state records. They both worked for Fresh Market on Burkhardt Road and had a flea market table at Cowboy Jim's on South Green River Road. Charlie also volunteered with the Harrison High School football team.
Both also were involved with Special Olympics as volunteers.
"It’s hard, truly,” their nephew, Aaron Hite, said of the loss.
Teague was the Hites' neighbor. She'd just bought her house at 1012 N. Weinbach in May, Vanderburgh County assessor records state.
Autopsy results released Monday morning by Vanderburgh County Deputy David Anson said the preliminary cause of death for the Hites was blunt force trauma to the chest, while the preliminary cause of Jessica Teague's death was compression asphyxia.
Services for the Hites are Tuesday in Evansville.
A statement released Monday morning by the Evansville Fire Department said the investigation is still in its early stages and likely will be lengthy.
"The very slow methodical process of the investigation started this morning," EFD Division Chief Mike Larson said in the release. "The Indiana State Fire Marshal’s Office is leading this investigation and the Evansville Fire Department is assisting. Several Insurance investigators have been in town and the Evansville Police Department is assisting with interviews as they are needed, along with site security,"
On Thursday afternoon, Evansville Fire Department Chief Mike Connelly said investigators had put the blast in "the accidental category." He took that statement back a mere three hours later, explaining the cause is "undetermined."
“IDHS and the Indiana State Fire Marshal will be assisting in the investigation of this tragic incident to ensure all state resources and expertise from within our agency are made available,” IDHS Executive Director Joel Thacker said in a prepared statement.
“We will support the local departments as needed to help the community heal from this tragedy.”
CenterPoint workers have remained on the scene since the explosion, checking gas lines and digging around the site of the blast.
CenterPoint spokeswoman Natalie Hedde said Thursday afternoon there was no natural gas detected outside the home, and nothing wrong with "CenterPoint's system" would have caused the explosion.
But when the Courier & Press asked if that meant she was ruling out natural gas as a cause, she referred that question to the EFD. And when asked if natural gas could have been present inside the home, she said she couldn't "speculate."
Homes to be demolished
A section of North Weinbach Avenue remained closed Monday. Investigators have said 11 houses will have to be demolished and 39 sustained damage. Displaced residents were assisted by the Red Cross and set up in an Evansville hotel.
As of Thursday, the Red Cross said it had assisted 15 families. Anyone displaced by the explosion can call the Red Cross at 1-800-RED-CROSS for assistance.
People who live in the area who have questions on the damage to their home, as well as if they can access their homes, should call 812-436-7818 where they will talk with an Evansville Building Commission representative.
The Evansville Water and Sewer Utility shut off water to about five or six homes on Weinbach in the area of the explosion. Other than those, unless a home was destroyed, all other residences have water service. At this time water shutoffs in Knight Township are suspended, according to PIO Ella Johnson-Watson.
A crew also arrived on scene Friday to fence-off areas in front of the affected homes.
Township Trustee office reopens, sort of
The Knight Township Trustee's Office, 1116 N. Weinbach, was among the 39 structures damaged by Wednesday's explosion. Trustee Kathryn Martin and her staff were back at work Monday, but in a military-style tent next to the building.
This will continue for at least few days "until a structural engineer can make a safety determination" about the building, according to a Facebook post by the Vanderbugh County Emergency Management Agency.
Also on Monday morning, "heavy equipment will be moving into the area to assist officials with their investigation" of the explosion's cause, according to the Vanderburgh County EMA.
This article originally appeared on Evansville Courier & Press: Evansville house explosion: What we know about the blast so far