ASHLEY, Ind. (WANE) One person died and two others were injured in a house explosion Monday night. It happened in the 1200 block of S. Gonser Avenue in Ashley around 9:30 p.m.
According to the Ashley Fire Department, it started with a LP gas leak at the house. Ashley Fire Chief Dave Barrand confirmed that something separate from the LP gas leak then triggered the blast.
“I was the first one on scene, and I noticed that the house was leveled with debris out on the roadway and out on the fields,” Barrand said. “Did find a male trapped inside with severe burns, also found a female that was under some debris.”
Barrand said a man and woman were airlifted to an area hospital. Another man was pronounced dead on the scene. At last check, the man and woman pulled from the debris are still in critical condition.
The woman’s father said she has third degree burns on about 30 percent of her body, but is expected to survive.
KPC News reported Tuesday evening the deceased was identified as 64-year-old Joe Brown.
Brown’s son Joseph and his girlfriend Ashley were the other two individuals in the home, according to KPC News.
The home sits in an isolated area. No other buildings were damaged. Neighbor Roger Dilley lives across the field from the house and heard and felt the explosion from his living room.
“They said they’d been installing a new furnace, and what an explosion it really was,” Dilley said. “We were just sitting there in the living room and all of the sudden, we just heard an unbelievable explosion. The concussion hit the side of our house, it’s just unbelievable. So, we immediately ran outdoors, looking and just trying to see some evidence of what took place,” Dilley said. “I jumped in the vehicle and told my wife I’ve got to go look. I ran over here, found the road full of debris and didn’t have any idea anybody would be in the house because all of the house was just exploded. I ran up the drive and just started yelling and asking if anyone was here, and I got a response immediately. The man that lived here, and then also the woman that was here as well. They both responded. We found him right away. He was obviously injured, but he was talking and everything. We were able to locate where she was at. She was buried under far more debris. She was obviously injured as well, but miraculously alive. Unfortunately, the man’s father didn’t survive it. They no sooner got both of them out and right in the area where they were at, there was apparently an electrical short and fire erupted almost immediately right in that area.”
Ashley Town Marshal Scott Barnhart said, “it shook the whole town” causing a flood of 911 calls. Dilley said he also heard people in Hudson felt the blast.
“In this town and also in the town of Hudson, even one of the firemen over in the little town of Hudson said it actually knocked the snow right off of his house. The concussion was felt for a long ways around. It was just enormous,” Dilley said. “Just pray for these folks. They need prayer. They need a lot of healing. It’s hard to imagine when you look at this to think anybody did survive. It just doesn’t look like anybody could have.”
Martha Fisher lives on Webster Street, which is about a mile away from the explosion. She stopped by the scene Tuesday morning.
“We couldn’t figure out where it was. We looked around our area and there was nobody around out doing anything. I thought good grief, it might be the factory across from us. You just never know what’s going on. “It just shook our house and I thought what on earth . We ran out and started looking, and we just did not see anything here. After a while, we started hearing the fire engines, the helicopters, and they were all headed somewhere. It was nighttime, we just didn’t know,” Fisher said. “I really felt sorry when I heard the message down at the mailbox that a person had been killed. That’s very hard to a community. We don’t like to see anything like that, but hopefully God will heal us, hopefully. I just hate to see things like this happen. So, hopefully, we’ll all be alright.”
Firefighters from Ashley and Hudson as well as police from DeKalb County and Steuben County responded. Barrand said several fires started up after they got there, but the crews were able to get them out quickly.
“The department was just exceptional. Not enough can be said about that. They just so decisively got them extracted out of the debris and then immediately that fire erupted. It could’ve turned out so much worse than it even did had they not got them out. Then, they of course got the fire out almost immediately,” Dilley said.
Even though the Ashley Fire Department has confirmed a gas leak led to the explosion, Barrand said there will be an ongoing investigation.