EVANSVILLE - A house explosion in the 1000 block of Weinbach Avenue on Wednesday afternoon killed three people, damaged 39 homes, and caused city officials to close several roads in the area.
Evansville Fire Department officials said 11 of the 39 homes are now considered "uninhabitable," while an additional person was hospitalized Wednesday and there's potentially more victims as state and local agencies continue to search the area. The total amount of people displaced is currently not known, but those affected were urged to seek shelter with the Red Cross at Vogel Elementary School.
5 p.m.: Fire chief retracts use of 'accidental'
A mere three hours after putting the cause of the explosion in the "accidental category," EFD chief Mike Connelly retracted that statement in his 5 p.m. news conference.
"Cause is undetermined. I have to retract the accidental comment," he said. "So it's still a cause-undetermined explosion."
The Indiana State Fire Marshal will now lead the investigation, he said.
2 p.m.: Evansville house explosion categorized as accidental
The Vanderburgh County Coroner's Office released the names of the three victims of the house explosion.
Charles Hite, 43, Martina Hite, 37, and Jessica Teague, 29, all of Evansville. Teague is listed as having died at the scene.
During a news conference, EFD Chief Mike Connelly said no cause has been determined for the explosion, but it has been placed in the "accidental category."
Natalie Hedde, a spokeswoman for CenterPoint, said there was no natural gas detected outside the home, and nothing wrong with "CenterPoint's system" that would have caused the explosion.
Whether that means a gas leak could be ruled out as the cause of the explosion would be something the fire department would have to determine, Hedde said.
When asked about the possibility of a leak inside the home, Hedde said she "cannot speculate."
11 a.m.: What caused the Indiana house explosion? It's still undetermined.
Hedde said CenterPoint never received any calls about gas in the area prior to the explosion.
During the 11 a.m. news briefing EFD Chief Mike Connelly said a secondary search was completed and no additional victims were found.
There is still no determined cause of the explosion and no confirmation of ID on the three dead.
"We're moving with caution as we go forward with the collection of evidence and removal of debris," Connelly said.
(5/x) 11 a.m. update: EFD Chief Mike Connelly confirms there are no further victims. Authorities are now holding an interagency briefing to generate a list of impacted addresses. Next update from officials is at 2 p.m. pic.twitter.com/zZGUiCEz4F
— Houston Harwood (@houston_whh) August 11, 2022
At the time of the briefing, CenterPoint was doing tests on the integrity of gas lines from the main to the meter.
Erin Merris, CenterPoint spokesperson, said the initial investigation Wednesday detected no natural gas on the outside areas of the home or in the surrounding areas.
The Red Cross updated the number of families assisted to 15. Of the families helped, 14 needed a place to stay.
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.
9:25 a.m.: 911 calls released
Evansville Vanderburgh Central Dispatch released five of the 911 calls reporting Tuesday's explosion to the Courier & Press. Some of the callers were scared or confused, while others laid out the horrific situation in clear language.
One person tells the dispatcher they think a house just exploded.
Another describes "debris flying higher than the trees."
8:52 a.m.: Roads still closed to through traffic
According to EPD officers working the scene, Weinbach Avenue from Oak Hill Road to Columbia Street remained close as of just before 9 a.m.
Vogel Road to ABK Tracking remains closed.
Bellaire Avenue from Weinbach Avenue to Hercules Avenue is closed.
Anyone who lives in the area is being let into the area, but outside traffic will not be allowed in.
8:30 a.m.: Red Cross assisted 14 families Wednesday night
The American Red Cross assisted 14 families last night at Vogel Elementary who needed housing assistance, American Red Cross of Indiana Southwest Chapter Executive Director Beth Sweeney said. She said the Red Cross put them up in hotel rooms.
There were other families who needed assistance, Sweeney noted, but who had family to help out/put them up.
The Red Cross tweeted a support line later in the day for those that may need to talk. The Disaster Distress Helpline is free 24/7 support by calling 800-985-5990 or texting TALKWITHUS to 66746.
8:10 a.m.: 11 homes will have to be demolished after explosion damage
Connelly said the 11 "uninhabitable" homes will have to be demolished and that a thorough search of every affected building has yet to be completed as of Thursday morning. That is expected to occur after the EFD shift change this morning.
When asked why a more thorough search for survivors wasn't conducted before ATF arrived, Connelly said “we have to ensure fire fighter safety.”
More updates are expected to be provided periodically throughout the day Thursday.
8:00 a.m.: News conference begins
The cause of the explosion is yet to be announced, EFD Fire Chief Mike Connelly said.
This article originally appeared on Evansville Courier & Press: Indiana house explosion kills 3; 11 Evansville homes 'uninhabitable'