‘There was fire and the roof had blown off’

September 3, 2018

MICHIGAN CITY – Six hours after an explosion leveled a home in the Eastport neighborhood Sunday morning, Doris Kiner sat on her front porch staring at the wreckage strewn around her.

As investigators from the Michigan City Fire Department, Federal Emergency Management Agency and ATF surveyed the damage, Kiner recalled the blast that shook her home and left her daughter screaming.

“I was cleaning the house and had just come in from the front door,” she said. “I heard a big old bang and an explosion. My house vibrated and I could feel like it was shifting.”

When she went back outside, the house directly across the street was basically gone, another was on fire and the street and nearby yards were covered in debris.

“There was fire and the roof had blown off,” she said. “The rest just collapsed in. The roof landed in the front yard across the street and went right into the front of the house” – the house right next door to her own, Kiner said. “It was all messed up.”

It happened about 9:15 a.m. in the 400 block of Pleasant Avenue. Firefighters put out the fires, but the home was a total loss.

Windows on several homes up to a block away were blown out, and the house next door to the explosion also caught fire, Kiner said.

Shante, who lives about half a block away, heard a “big old kaboom,” and then heard her daughter crying on the porch.

“It sounded like trains had collided on the tracks,” she said. “That’s what I thought it was at first. My house started vibrating, so I went out and saw fire and big clouds of black smoke in the sky, and stuff flying all over in the air.”

While her home was not damaged, her neighbor’s windows were blown out.

Shante said she was concerned it was her friend’s house, but called and found out she had took her son to football practice earlier.

“But we found out her house was pretty much destroyed. The whole house shifted, the windows were blown out and there are cracks in the ceiling from the living room to the kitchen. She can’t live there anymore, but at least she’s okay.”

Kiner had the same thought.

“The house that blew up was empty; and the owners were on vacation from the house next door that caught fire. The house down (the street) also got wrecked, but the owner was at her son’s football practice.”

People in the street said if this had been a school day, things could have been much worse.

Cleanup crews from the city were using a bulldozer to clear debris from the streets, while NIPSCO workers checked nearby gas lines.

NIPSCO spokeswoman Mary Cossey said, “We immediately dispatched crews. The gas is off and we are verifying that the area is safe.”

While neighbors gathered in the street said they were told it was a natural gas explosion, Cossey said, “We do not have a confirmation on what caused the explosion.

“There are no reported injuries and we are coordinating with the fire department on the investigation.”

She said the property was a rental that was recently vacated, so she did not know whether utility service had been shut off before the explosion.

Kiner said she was told it was gas, but she wasn’t so sure.

“They said it was gas, but I think it was something else. I never smelled any gas out here.”

She said her home suffered damage from the blast. Windows were broken, and she is afraid there might be foundation damage from the vibration, which also knocked things over in the house.

“It was scary,” she said. “I’ve never heard anything like that.”

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