Video captures house explosion that killed 3 in Evansville, Indiana; coroner identifies victims

EVANSVILLE, Ind. — Authorities on Thursday identified the three people killed in a house explosion that rocked a suburban Indiana neighborhood and damaged nearly 40 homes.

Meanwhile, officials were still investigating the cause of Wednesday's blast. Initially, Evansville Fire Department Chief Mike Connelly said the explosion was accidental but later retracted that sentiment, explaining the state fire marshal would lead the probe to determine a cause.

Surveillance footage from a nearby building showed a burst before debris exploded into the air, followed by a billow of smoke. Evansville Fire Department officials said 11 of the 39 damaged homes were uninhabitable after the blast.

The neighborhood was in tatters Wednesday, the splintered remains of homes flung across the road. First responders searched for victims.

On Thursday, the Vanderburgh County Coroner's Office released the names of those killed: Charles "Charlie" Hite, 43; Martina Hite, 37; and Jessica Teague, 29.

An explosion in Evansville, Ind., killed at least three people.
An explosion in Evansville, Ind., killed at least three people.

Here's what we know:

Family of couple killed: Sudden loss 'is hitting him hard'

Steve Hite was on his way to his brother Charlie's home when, one minute before 1 p.m., the house exploded.

Charlie and his wife, Martina, were inside. Both were killed. Teague, the third victim, was in a neighboring home and died in the blast.

Steve Hite’s son, Aaron, said his father is devastated.

“He wishes he would have picked him up sooner,” Aaron said. “It’s really hitting him hard.”

Charlie and Martina Hite worked for Fresh Market, and they had a table at Cowboy Jim's Flea Market in the city. Charlie worked as a volunteer for Harrison High School’s football team, shooting video and handing out equipment.

Aaron Hite said his aunt and uncle were loving and supportive. Aaron said Charlie helped him move into his first Evansville apartment. Martina Hite, he said, loved the color purple and wearing purple outfits.

“It’s hard, truly,” Aaron said of the loss.

‘Debris flying higher than the trees

Those who called 911 after the explosion documented the force of the blast, which rattled buildings miles away.

One of the callers who identified himself as a mail carrier told police the explosion moved his truck.

“I just saw a bunch of debris flying higher than the trees,” he said. “And it shook my whole mail truck.”

People reported feeling the blast from across the city. Residents said it shook the walls of home and offices, causing people to run outside, thinking the explosion happened nearby.

3 dead and families displaced 

Three people died and one person was taken to a hospital with non-life-threatening injuries Wednesday, Evansville Fire Chief Mike Connelly said Thursday morning.

The Red Cross helped about 15 families and provided most with a place to stay in hotel rooms, said Beth Sweeney, executive director of the American Red Cross of Indiana Southwest Chapter. The organization is working to provide families with food, water and clothing.

Wednesday's explosion: House explodes in Evansville, Indiana, leaving 3 dead and nearby homes 'uninhabitable'

Damage renders homes 'uninhabitable'

The explosion, which was reported just before 1 p.m., destroyed the home. Neighboring homes were heavily damaged, and the street was littered with debris.

Connelly said the 11 homes were uninhabitable and would have to be demolished. The fire chief said he didn't think any remaining homes would collapse but repairs need to be made before families can return.

The search for victims continued Thursday morning. The fire department had not completed a full search of the damage Wednesday "due to the instability of the structures," Connelly said.

A secondary search was completed late Thursday morning, and no additional victims were found.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY NETWORK: Evansville, Indiana, house explosion caught on video; 3 victims ID'd