14 News Exclusive: Hercules home explosion survivors 1 year later

14 News Exclusive: Hercules home explosion survivors 1 year later

EVANSVILLE, IN (WFIE) - The healing continues one year after a deadly home explosion in Evansville. Two people were killed that Tuesday morning in June.

Three others were severely burned and rushed to hospitals in Indianapolis and Louisville.

In her first interview since the explosion, survivor Tara McKnight reflects on the day that changed everything.

Tara's son Jesse was burned over 50 percent of his body and is facing many more surgeries ahead. Daily life is tough physically, mentally, and financially. And the healing process for this family is far from over.

One year later, Tara can still hear the sounds of her then 8-year-old little boy screaming for help.

"I'd yell his name and he'd yell Mama," said McKnight.

Tara, Jesse, and another family member, Michael Kneer, survived the unimaginable.

"We woke up to the explosion. I remember going through the ceiling. I remember as soon as I realized I was going through the ceiling, I did a flip-over at one point, and I was knocking things out of my way," she recalled.

Tara said she came out of the house searching for Jesse.

"I remember the neighbors saying, 'We're taking Jesse across the street. We'll be right back.' I don't know what kind of processing thoughts I was having in my mind, but because I'd been hollering his name, I hollered for him again and turned around and went back after him," she said.

Tara, Jesse, and Michael were flown to hospitals where they spent weeks in burn centers enduring surgery after surgery.

Tara's daughter Jada moved back home from college to help take care of her little brother.

"The worst part for him was probably like the showers and stuff because they had skin grafts," Jada said. "They had cadaver skin so every time he'd take a bath, they'd shave the dead skin off of him. It was painful. It was very traumatizing for him. So coming home, showers were really hard."

Jesse wears full body compression garments 21 hours a day.

"Here on the inside, it has the latex which you can feel, and that's what takes the scars away," said Jada McKnight.

"Our skin is like tissue paper. I can barely bump something and it rips it apart. That's why his elbows are always busted," said Tara.

Physical and emotional challenges are a daily battle.

"I think one thing that's kind of bothering him now, and I've noticed people stare a lot, and I see him becoming self-conscious with that," said Tara McKnight.

Jesse has two surgeries ahead and even more in the future as he continues to grow.

"It's very difficult. There's just no way to describe how difficult it is.  It's never good to see your children hurt," Tara continued. "Every time I look at him and see the scars, I just hate it."

Tara expressed her gratitude for the neighbors and firefighters who rushed in to help.  They lost everything that day.

She went back to work as soon as she healed, so it's been challenging getting back on her feet and helping Jesse through this recovery process.

We've reported the cause of this explosion was undetermined, but we checked back in with fire officials who say the destruction of the home was evidence of a diffused vapor or gas explosion.

However, they haven't been able to determine the origin. That's the big question here.

It's a story we'll continue to follow.

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