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CrimeJeffersonville house explosion: Neighbors in limbo after blast

23:55  02 july  2019
23:55  02 july  2019 Source:   courier-journal.com

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An explosion destroyed several homes on Assembly Road in Jeffersonville and left one person dead. Michael Clevenger/The Courier Journal, Louisville Courier Journal.

Stunned and sleepless, neighbors return to scene of deadly Jeffersonville home explosion . As fire department and gas company officials investigated a day after a deadly home explosion in Jeffersonville , Indiana, neighbors are still stunned.

For months this spring, Kendall Browning worked to fix up the family home.

New drywall. Fresh paint. Thousands of dollars spent. By the end of June, he had hoped, he, his wife and young son could move back in.

Then came the boom the morning of May 19.

“I didn’t think it was going to be as bad as it was,” Browning said.

More than six weeks after a natural gas explosion leveled a home in the Capitol Hills neighborhood of Jeffersonville, Indiana, killing 50-year-old William "Billy" Phillips and critically wounding his wife, Janet, the area still hasn’t recovered.

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Jeffersonville house explosion: Neighbors in limbo after blast© Provided by Gannett Co., Inc.

Browning is one of more than half a dozen homeowners still displaced by the blast, figuring out what comes next.

Meanwhile, Janet Phillips continues to recover. It’s a slow process, forward-moving though not without its setbacks, said Sam Aguiar, her family's attorney.

He was at the scene Monday in the 900 block of Assembly Road along with about two dozen experts and inspectors gathered to examine the explosion site, take photographs and catalog the debris.

“Everyone’s still trying to figure out what happened,” Aguiar said, noting he had his own experts on-site, as did Vectren, the natural gas provider, and various insurance companies.

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They moved in and out of a chain-link fence that surrounds what is left of the Phillips’ home — a rectangular foundation outlining the house’s basement, surrounded by rubble. Affixed to the temporary fencing are small green signs: “Potential evidence.”

A few days after the blast, following an investigation by Vectren, Jeffersonville Police announced that a buildup of natural gas inside the home had led to the explosion.

A cause of the buildup and ignition wasn’t detailed, though police said nothing criminal was suspected and they were still investigating.

While only one home — to the right of the Phillips’ home — has been officially condemned, about six others have been deemed unlivable until they’re inspected by a structural engineer and repairs are made, said Larry Wallace, the city's building commissioner.

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Hours after the explosion shattered windows across a Jeffersonville neighborhood and sent debris Authorities are investigating what caused a house in Jeffersonville , Indiana, to explode early He said he looked outside and saw what appeared to be fireworks before a second blast shattered his

He said he’s still waiting on reports from engineers, most of whom are hired by homeowners’ insurance companies.

“These people are trying to get back in their homes, and the insurance companies can drag their feet,” Wallace said.

Browning’s house, which is 180 feet away from where the Phillips home stood, had nearly all of its front windows shattered. Ceilings collapsed. Walls cracked. An upstairs toilet split, soaking and later molding everything beneath it.

The day after: Neighbors return to scene of deadly Jeffersonville home explosion

Jeffersonville house explosion: Neighbors in limbo after blast© Sam Upshaw Jr./Courier Journal Kendall Browning, right, and his wife Anna Browning stand in front of their home on Assembly Road in Jeffersonville with their son Rowan, 19 months. The house is boarded up and condemned following an explosion in the neighborhood which disintegrated a neighbor's home causing a fatality and another critical injury. June 27, 2019

“It’s such a wreck in there right now,” Browning said shortly after the explosion last month. “It kind of gives you a hopeless feeling. It’s just overwhelming when you look at all the stuff you have to do.”

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The weeks that followed were a confusing crash course in dealing with insurance companies and not knowing where to turn for help, he said. It’s meant an extended stay in his mother’s basement with his wife and toddler.

“It’s been really stressful waiting and wondering what would happen,” he said late last week.

Across the street from Browning’s boarded-up home is a one-story house also with its windows covered by plywood. But its owner, David White, is still living inside.

He navigates around wooden two-by-fours that shore up his living room and bedroom ceilings. And he’s tried picking up the glass fragments blown into his house.

“It’s so quiet out here. I do find it a little bit unnerving,” he said. “And it’s so dark out here at night. There’s nobody around anymore.”

The street, swarming with activity in the days following the explosion, has largely fallen quiet. Homeowners still come back to cut their grass and the occasional car drives by, slowing down to survey the damage.

Jeffersonville Police Lt. Isaac Parker didn’t have fresh details on the investigation, saying police and the fire department are still investigating.

“Vectren has been cooperative when we request information,” he said.

Vectren spokeswoman Natalie Hedde said as of the end of June, 13 homes in the area were without natural gas service.

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Bill Phillips identified: Authorities identify man killed in Jeffersonville home explosion

Jeffersonville house explosion: Neighbors in limbo after blast
Jeffersonville house explosion: Neighbors in limbo after blast
Jeffersonville house explosion: Neighbors in limbo after blast
Jeffersonville house explosion: Neighbors in limbo after blast
Jeffersonville house explosion: Neighbors in limbo after blast
Jeffersonville house explosion: Neighbors in limbo after blast
Jeffersonville house explosion: Neighbors in limbo after blast
Jeffersonville house explosion: Neighbors in limbo after blast
Jeffersonville house explosion: Neighbors in limbo after blast
Jeffersonville house explosion: Neighbors in limbo after blast
Jeffersonville house explosion: Neighbors in limbo after blast
Jeffersonville house explosion: Neighbors in limbo after blast
Jeffersonville house explosion: Neighbors in limbo after blast
Jeffersonville house explosion: Neighbors in limbo after blast
Jeffersonville house explosion: Neighbors in limbo after blast
Jeffersonville house explosion: Neighbors in limbo after blast
Jeffersonville house explosion: Neighbors in limbo after blast
Jeffersonville house explosion: Neighbors in limbo after blast
Jeffersonville house explosion: Neighbors in limbo after blast
Jeffersonville house explosion: Neighbors in limbo after blast
Jeffersonville house explosion: Neighbors in limbo after blast
Jeffersonville house explosion: Neighbors in limbo after blast
Jeffersonville house explosion: Neighbors in limbo after blast
Jeffersonville house explosion: Neighbors in limbo after blast
Jeffersonville house explosion: Neighbors in limbo after blast
Jeffersonville house explosion: Neighbors in limbo after blast
Jeffersonville house explosion: Neighbors in limbo after blast
Jeffersonville house explosion: Neighbors in limbo after blast
Jeffersonville house explosion: Neighbors in limbo after blast
Jeffersonville house explosion: Neighbors in limbo after blast
Jeffersonville house explosion: Neighbors in limbo after blast
Jeffersonville house explosion: Neighbors in limbo after blast
Jeffersonville house explosion: Neighbors in limbo after blast
Jeffersonville house explosion: Neighbors in limbo after blast
Jeffersonville house explosion: Neighbors in limbo after blast
Jeffersonville house explosion: Neighbors in limbo after blast
Jeffersonville house explosion: Neighbors in limbo after blast
Jeffersonville house explosion: Neighbors in limbo after blast
Jeffersonville house explosion: Neighbors in limbo after blast
Jeffersonville house explosion: Neighbors in limbo after blast
Jeffersonville house explosion: Neighbors in limbo after blast
Jeffersonville house explosion: Neighbors in limbo after blast
Jeffersonville house explosion: Neighbors in limbo after blast
Jeffersonville house explosion: Neighbors in limbo after blast
Jeffersonville house explosion: Neighbors in limbo after blast
Jeffersonville house explosion: Neighbors in limbo after blast
Jeffersonville house explosion: Neighbors in limbo after blast
Jeffersonville house explosion: Neighbors in limbo after blast
Jeffersonville house explosion: Neighbors in limbo after blast
Jeffersonville house explosion: Neighbors in limbo after blast

She noted Vectren crews were on the scene the morning of the blast to investigate.

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"While the investigation is ongoing, it was determined the cause was natural gas,” she said in an email. “However, the source of the natural gas involved in the incident appears to have been in the interior of the home, not on pipeline or infrastructure owned by Vectren."

She also said there is no threat to other homes in the area.

Stephanie Hodgin, a spokeswoman for the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission, said members of the commission's Pipeline Safety Division were in Jeffersonville investigating alongside other agencies shortly after the blast.

The incident doesn’t fall under its jurisdiction, Hodgin wrote in an email, “because the investigation found no issues with the utility’s side of the system leading to the customer’s meter,” which is where the division’s jurisdiction ends.

Aguiar, the Phillips family's attorney, said from the site Monday that he’s working to better understand what caused the deadly explosion.

The “why” is one of the big questions neighbors still have, Browning said. They want to know Janet Phillips will pull through. They also want to know how long it will take for their lives to return to normal.

Browning said he learned last week it would make more financial sense to bulldoze his home and sell the property he’s owned since 2011.

He’s not sure what his neighbors will do with their homes, some of which suffered more damage. And he doesn’t know what will become of the house next to his, which was put on the market about a week before the explosion.

The neighborhood wasn’t perfect, he said, but it reminded him of where he grew up.

“I was happy here,” he said.

Read more: House explosions are rare but have had a deadly toll across the country

Reporter Matthew Glowicki can be reached at 502-582-4989 or mglowicki@courier-journal.com. Support strong local journalism by subscribing today: courier-journal.com/mattg.

This article originally appeared on Louisville Courier Journal: Jeffersonville house explosion: Neighbors in limbo after blast

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