The Norman Transcript

Nation/World

November 13, 2012

Owner: Furnace may be behind deadly Indianapolis blast

INDIANAPOLIS — The owner of one of the homes that exploded in Indianapolis said Monday that a problem furnace could be to blame for the blast that killed two people and damaged dozens of homes so severely officials say they must be demolished.

John Shirley, 50, of Noblesville, said his daughter sent him a text message last week complaining that the furnace in the home where she lives with her mother and her mother’s boyfriend had gone out and required them to stay at hotel.

But Shirley also said when he asked if the furnace had been fixed, his daughter said yes, and he wasn’t aware of any additional problems until he heard from his daughter again Sunday morning.

“I get a text from my daughter saying ‘Dad, our home is gone. Then I called my ex-wife and she said what happened,” he said.

Citizens Energy, the natural gas supplier to the home, did not receive any reports about a faulty furnace at the home, but the homeowner wouldn’t necessarily report such a problem to the utility, spokeswoman Sarah Holsapple said. And if the homeowner hired someone to fix the furnace, the contractor wouldn’t need to tell the utility.

“It’s too early to speculate that this might have been caused by a gas leak,” Holsapple said.

Citizens Energy tested for gas leaks in the neighborhood but hasn’t found any. She said crews also were testing lines that run from the gas main to the home and were testing the home’s gas meter. She said the utility had no record of abnormal gas consumption in the home that exploded.

Investigators said they have not determined a cause for the Saturday night blast that sparked a massive fire, blew out windows, collapsed ceilings and shook homes up to three miles away.

“It’s a methodical investigation. You have to move one step at a time,” the city’s homeland security director, Gary Coons, told reporters.

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