JEFFERSONVILLE — At least one of the 13 homes damaged in a fatal home explosion two weeks ago in Jeffersonville is expected to be condemned, but there could be others as officials continue to assess the damage in the wake of the disaster.
Around 5 a.m. May 19, residents more than five miles away reported being awakened to a blast, soon determined to be the explosion of a home at 904 Assembly Drive in the Capitol Hills neighborhood.
William Phillips, who owned the home with his wife Janet, was killed in the explosion. Janet was transported to the hospital, and Jeffersonville police confirmed Monday that she remains there receiving treatment.
Vectren, which supplies gas to the neighborhood, turned off service to all homes in the neighborhood immediately after the explosion. As of Monday, 13 remain without service.
Jeffersonville Building Commissioner Larry Wallace initially instructed residents of nearly all of the affected homes on Assembly Drive and Pennsylvania Avenue to vacate until they could be inspected for safety.
Although a structural engineer will make determinations on any additional condemnations, Wallace said he expects that the two-story home next door to the home where the explosion occurred will need to come down. One or two other nearby homes also may be damaged beyond repair, he said.
"They're moved off the foundation, they're unsafe, trusses are cracked," he said. "But we're waiting on reports from several of them before we make that permanent determination."
He said he hadn't seen the kind of damage caused by the explosion since tornadoes ravaged the Midwest in 1974.
"Just shocking, seeing it for the first time," he said.
City departments cleared the roadway and other city-owned property surrounding the explosion in the days after the incident; however, homeowners are responsible for cleanup of their individual properties.
One resident, who'd been staying in a hotel since right after the explosion, won't be returning to the house she rented for several years — she has secured an apartment.
She said the help she's received from places like Exit Zero after the incident is much needed kindness needed after such a horrific situation, one she can't easily talk about.
"Words cannot describe it," she said. "There's not a word in the dictionary to describe that morning."
Jeffersonville Police previously reported that the explosion had been caused by additional gas that was spilling into the house for around 12 hours before being ignited by an unknown source. The cause was not related to any pipes owned or maintained by Vectren, the company that supplies gas and electric to the neighborhood.
Utility pipes stop at the property line, and those connected directly to the house are the responsibility of the homeowner. In this case, JPD Lt. Isaac Parker said investigators are still working to determine what exactly happened to cause the explosion or to allow extra gas to flow into the residence. He did say, however, that there is no reason to suspect foul play.
"The investigations on our end are still open and ongoing and there are specifics that we are not able to release at this time," Parker said. "These types of investigations are large-scale ... and we're continuing to move forward."
Vectren recently completed an independent investigation, turning over findings to Jeffersonville police and fire departments. The company also confirmed residents of the home had not reported any issues with natural gas within the past five years.