Monday, November 12, 2012

Incorrectly-Repaired Gas Furnace Could Have Triggered Catastrophic Explosion In Indianapolis; Department Of Homeland Security Involved

Update December 21st: Three arrests in this case, with charges of arson and murder. Insurance fraud on steroids; see updated post HERE.

Update November 14th: See updated information on this new post.

Screenshot from WISH-TV video showing the affected neighborhood. Note how the homes surrounding the explosion have had their windows blown out and parts of their structure buckled. These homes may have to be condemned

This story is of interest to those of us in Alaska who use natural gas. An Associated Press story published by the Anchorage Daily News implies that an incorrectly-repaired gas furnace may have triggered the catastrophic explosion originating at 8349 Fieldfare Way in the Richmond Hill subdivision of south Indianapolis at 11:08 P.M. CST on Saturday November 10th, 2012 that completely leveled two homes and damaged as many as 80 homes. Thirty-six of the homes sustained critical damage, thirty-one of which have been declared unfit for occupancy, and four of those homes, two on either side of the explosion, have been ordered demolished. The explosion was strong enough to trigger earthquake sensors maintained by Indiana University in Bloomington, even though the closest sensor was 30 miles away in Martinsville in Morgan County.

Two people, Jennifer L. Longworth and her husband, John D. Longworth, are presumed to have died when the adjoining home 8355 Fieldfare Way was also leveled. Monserrate Shirley and Mark Leonard, who lived at 8349 Fieldfare Way, were at a casino the night of the explosion, while Shirley's daughter was at a friend’s house and the family’s cat was being boarded, so all four escaped injury.

-- The Indianapolis Star has a gallery of 61 photos HERE.

-- The IndyChannel has a color-coded map showing the most affected properties HERE.

WISH-TV news video embedded below:

Officials won't speculate on cause of explosion

John Shirley, who along with his ex-wife Monserrate Shirley co-owns the home where the explosion is believed to have originated, told The Associated Press that his daughter sent him a text message during the week preceding the explosion complaining that the furnace in the home where she lives with her mother Monserrate and Monserrate's boyfriend Mark Leonard had gone out, requiring them to stay at a hotel. But John Shirley also said that when he asked if the furnace had been fixed, his daughter said Yes, and he wasn't aware of any additional problems until he heard from his daughter again on Sunday November 11th. A separate report from WISH-TV reveals some ambiguity about this account, though; they have a source that claims a family member had complained about smelling gas inside the home but the source was unsure when that complaint was made and whether Citizens Gas was notified. On Sunday November 11th, Citizens Gas reported the utility had not received any calls from the neighborhood in the past two days in regards to neighbors smelling gas, but on Monday Citizens spokesperson Dan Considine said he could not comment and referred all questions to the Department of Homeland Security. Citizens has also published a statement on their website. Nevertheless, the AP account strongly infers that the furnace may have been repaired incorrectly, creating a natural gas leak inside the home. The natural gas may have pooled inside and not leaked outside, which would explain why neighborhood residents interviewed after the blast said they did not smell any natural gas in the area prior to the explosion. This is different than the San Bruno pipeline explosion in 2010, where neighborhood residents did report a natural gas smell well before that catastrophe. Authorities have now ruled out a plane crash, a bomb, and a meth lab explosion as possible causes; the investigation is now focusing more upon natural gas. A utility spokesman said workers have been inspecting mains in the neighborhood but have detected no leaks as of this post. Public Safety Director Troy Riggs said the investigation could take some time and investigators will treat the area as a crime scene until they rule out foul play. The incident is affecting local public attitudes towards natural gas somewhat. WISH-TV is running an unscientific poll on their main page asking respondents if they feel natural gas is safe; 27 percent of respondents say No as of this post. But 55 percent still consider natural gas fundamentally safe. It is rather odd that the Department of Homeland Security is now involved, even though a bomb seems to have been ruled out as the cause. But that's probably because BATF is participating in the investigation. Those interested in continuing local coverage from Indianapolis can visit WISH-TV, the IndyChannel, and the Indianapolis Star for more information.

16 comments:

  1. PYS-OP

    MISSILE STRIKE FROM DRONE.

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    ReplyDelete
  2. Gas furnace repairs are something that everyone will need to have done at some time in their life.

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  3. Shirley was the boyfriend not the co-owner and this is now being investigated as a criminal homicide. They have issued warrants for a white van that belonged to Shirley and have his brother in custody. SWAT was at his house yesterday.

    ReplyDelete
  4. This is the reason why you should NOT mess around with
    furnace repair. Anything that involves fire and oil, I am not going to mess with. It is my personal rule of thumb and has never swayed me in the wrong direction.

    ReplyDelete
  5. This is horrible! I really need to get a new furnace, but I don't really know what gas furnace prices are these days. Any suggestions?

    ReplyDelete
  6. Oh my goodness! I had no idea what could happen if something goes wrong with a gas furnace. My friend has been looking into gas furnace prices thinking of getting a better one for Christmas. What's the best kind to get?

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  7. Great news and sad to hear, thanks for this information. We should take care while repairing gas furnace..

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  9. Man, I sure hope that my goodman gas furnace was repaired correctly. That's just horrible! It's amazing how one little mistake can cause such chaos. Thanks for sharing!

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