At least two people were killed and at least eight people were injured in an explosion and massive fire that tore through a neighborhood on Indianapolis’ south side late Saturday evening.
The explosion happened about 11:10 p.m. in the 8400 block of Fieldfare Way in the Richmond Hill subdivision, near Sherman Drive between County Line Road and Stop 11 Road, displacing 200 people from their homes.
The blast was so powerful that it was heard from several miles away in much of Perry and Franklin Township. Some people reported hearing the blast in Hancock and Shelby counties.
The Indianapolis Fire Department confirmed the fatalities early Sunday morning. Wishard Memorial Hospital received four patients. Methodist Hospital said it had one patient from the blast and expected two more, and St. Francis Hospital said it had one patient in the aftermath of the explosion. Injuries to those eight patients were not believed to be life-threatening.
After crews checked every home in a 2 mile radius from the blast, IFD Chief Kenny Bacon said four homes were destroyed in the explosion and subsequent fire, and an additional 27 homes were damaged. Some of the homes will have to be torn down, officials said.
Initially, authorities speculated that the culprit may have been a natural gas explosion, but they later backed away from that, saying that an investigation will determine the cause.
Citizens Gas spokesman Dan Considine said that the utility did not get any calls about residents smelling gas before the explosion. However, the gas has now been shut off at 26 homes as a precaution, he said.
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives was called in to help with the investigation.
Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard spent some time in the damaged area early Sunday morning and said two homes were leveled.
“A lot of houses have been damaged, some severely and some a little bit,” Ballard said, adding that there was “major damage” to homes immediately surrounding those that were destroyed.
Windows and doors were blown out of homes a block or two away from the blast, Ballard said.
Dozens of firefighters were putting out hotspots into the early-morning hours and had gone from home to home to account for everyone who lives nearby.
Homes in the neighborhood surrounding the blast and fire were evacuated. Affected residents were taken to Mary Bryan Elementary School. About 150 people were there as of 1 a.m. Sunday.
Bacon said residents are allowed to return to the neighborhood to retrieve their belongings, but only light items that they can carry. Residents will also need to show ID before entering their home, officials said.
Marion County Sheriff John Layton heard the explosion from Southport Road and Madison Avenue.
“It was such an explosion that I knew it was a catastrophe,” Layton said. “I was probably three miles away, and my police car shook.”