NEW CHICAGO, Indiana (WLS) — According to the fire department, a woman died in an explosion in a house in New Chicago on Wednesday.
Witnesses and neighbors said rescue workers were responding to a home after an explosion occurred on Indiana’s 29th Avenue near Lake Station just before noon.
“I heard an explosion and I just look outside and I see my neighbor’s house and it’s all destroyed and destroyed and a few seconds later there’s a lot of smoke and I wanted to help but a few seconds after that there was fire .” said neighbor Emiliano Casas.
Casas lives next door to the house on the 29th and Decatur and said before he saw the flames he heard a terrible noise.
“It sounded scary. I can’t even explain it,” he said.
“I thought maybe a tree would fall on my house — but when I turned and looked south, I saw the smoke and fire in the air,” said Allen Mohr, who lives a few blocks away.
Casas ran over to try to help, as did another Good Samaritan, but then he heard a second explosion and said the flames had grown too intense.
ABC7 received cellphone video taken by a neighbor in the area who first tried to help before the flames became too overwhelming.
“I was nervous, scared and anxious because I was worried that the next house or my own house would collapse too,” Casa said.
“We did a defensive attack because there was no way we could do an interior attack with that much fire and smoke,” said Chief Evin Eakins Jrm of the New Chicago Fire Department.
Neighbor Joshua Pollard said he knew the victim and described her as a comforting presence in the area.
“She just opened her heart and had a big smile the whole time,” Pollard said.
Utility company NIP-SCO said it was aware of the incident and had been helping with first responders to secure the area.
The company also released a statement, which said, in part, “Our preliminary investigation of the crime scene indicates that NIPSCO facilities were not involved. Further inquiries should be directed to Lake Station Fire and Rescue.”
Investigators have yet to reveal the cause of the explosion but said investigators are considering the possibility of a natural gas explosion at this time.
“Neighbors said they smelled gas in the area, so at some point we come to the conclusion that it may have been a natural gas leak,” said Chief Evin Eakins Jr. of the New Chicago City Fire Department.
Neighbors told ABC7 that they had reported gas smells in the area two weeks ago.
The woman who died has not yet been identified, although neighbors who knew her described it as a loss and a tragedy.
The New Chicago Fire Chief said the state fire marshal supported those investigations.
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