Authorities rule fatal Weinbach Ave. house explosion ‘accidental’
EVANSVILLE, Ind. (WFIE) - The Indiana State Fire Marshal has ruled the cause of Aug. 10’s house explosion on Weinbach Avenue as accidental.
Following a joint investigation with the Evansville Fire Department, investigators say they discovered a leaking gas line in the basement of the home.
Indiana State Fire Marshal Steve Jones says a lot of work went into turning this investigation into the press release that 14 News received.
“You know, ATF had a lot of boots on the ground. The fire department had a lot of boots on the ground. My fire investigation team had a lot of boots on the ground, all of them very good fire investigators, and so while you have some interviewing and talking to people, you have some reviewing video, you have some looking at the debris and examining other things,” says Jones, “so, it takes a lot of people to do a lot of different things to bring all that data together to be able to format what had just happened.”
According to that release, investigators say the line was found uncapped, with the valve in the open position. They say meter data taken after the incident showed a sharp increase in gas usage beginning two days before the blast.
“This leak was in the basement. So, we can’t really speak to how much was available to somebody on the first floor, but we do know from the gas meter that an abnormal amount of gas was going through the meter for a period of two days,” says Jones.
No additional evidence was found to determine how the valve was opened. However, there is no indication of foul play.
Investigators say they could not determine what caused the ignition, but say other electrical appliances could have ignited the fire.
They say additional testing confirmed that Mercaptan, an odorant additive to gas, was present in the gas line leading to 1010 N. Weinbach Ave.
The release also says it could not be determined how the occupants of the home were unaware of the gas accumulating in the home, and Jones says while they may not know how it was missed, they’re glad they could pinpoint why it happened.
“It feels good just in a way that we understand what happened,” says Jones, “the loss of life, that part of it, nobody likes, but it’s good to understand what happened in this case.”
CenterPoint Energy released a statement on Wednesday that reads as follows:
“Our thoughts and prayers continue to be with all those affected by the Aug. 10 incident at 1010 N. Weinbach Avenue. We also want to express our appreciation to the Indiana State Fire Marshal, Evansville Fire Department, Evansville Police Department and all personnel who assisted with the investigation.
Following the incident, CenterPoint Energy conducted various tests on its system and outside the surrounding area in the 1000 block of North Weinbach Avenue, indicating no issues. CenterPoint Energy shared its data and fully cooperated with the Indiana State Fire Marshal and additional agencies in its investigation. The State Fire Marshal’s report released today further supports the company’s findings, determining that an accident inside the house, independent of CenterPoint Energy’s system, was the cause of the incident.”
14 News reached out to CenterPoint with several questions in hopes of clarifying some of the investigation’s findings:
- There is some kind of information that suggests the gas valve was open for two days, and there was some talk of a spike in natural gas usage in that area. How was that measured?
- If it can be measured after the fact, is there nothing to indicate a spike in that area while the spike is occurring, before the explosion?
- Are those readings produced in real-time, and if so, is there any kind of oversight that would recognize a spike and contact residents to inquire about it?
CenterPoint first told our reporter to ask the Department of Homeland Security. Homeland Security then told our reporter to ask CenterPoint Energy. CenterPoint refused to answer the questions and stated that the company “will not have any further comment regarding the investigation beyond our statement issued earlier today.”
Officials with EFD held a brief press conference Wednesday morning.
You can watch that press conference below.
You can watch our team coverage of the investigation findings in the video below:
Click here to see our previous coverage on the explosion.
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