Cause of house explosion still unknown; investigation to continue Wednesday

Cause of house explosion still unknown; investigation to continue Wednesday

EVANSVILLE, IN (WFIE) - The chaos erupted in the 1700 block of Hercules Avenue, near Weinbach and Morgan at 8:30 a.m. Tuesday.

12-hours later, two women are dead and three other people are badly burned, including an 8-year-old boy. The three survivors climbed out of the debris, according to neighbors.

Michael Kneer, one of the survivors, is listed in critical condition at a Louisville burn center. Family members say the other two victims are Jesse Woolem and his mom, Tara McKnight.

McKnight is in critical but stable condition at Eskenazi burn unit in Indianapolis. Authorities say Woolem was taken to Riley Children's, but the hospital didn't have patient information to release about him.

As for the two women who died, authorities say they were found in the kitchen area of the home. The coroner's office has not released their identities, pending the autopsies.

Autopsies are scheduled for 1 p.m. Wednesday.

The fire department has put this scene "on hold," for the night. Police officers are on scene watching over this area, making sure it's protected for this investigation that will last for several days.

When the explosion rocked the street Tuesday, many neighbors went running to see what happened.

"I look out the window and the first thing that I noticed was that the house was gone," explained neighbor Tara Brown. "There were no flames. The house just exploded."

Brown immediately called 911 before running outside to help.

"I come out and there was only two neighbors out at the time, and then I saw the mom and the son coming out of the house," Brown said. "I ran back to the house and I got a bunch of towels, wetted them down, and we just covered them up and were just there. It was very horrific."

Horrific and scary because no one, even fire investigators, knows exactly what caused this house to explode.

"It is possible with the deterioration from the explosion, the fire, and the rescue, the body recovery attempts that we will not determine the cause of the fire," explained Richard Howard, Fire Investigator.

Fire Investigator Howard has ruled out oxygen as a source of the fire, but believes some type of gas built up pressure inside the house and then found a ignition source.

"I believe by the signs that I'm looking at the destruction of the scene that I have a diffused gas vapor explosion," Investigator Howard said. "One of the possibilities that means to me is I am looking at a natural gas explosion."

Fire investigators and Vectren will be back out here at the scene on Wednesday to continue their investigation.

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