The Indianapolis Star is reporting in its online edition this afternoon that the National Transportation Safety Board has determined that there were no leaks in the gas lines leading up to the home where Saturday night's deadly explosion occurred in the Richmond Hill subdivision on Indianapolis' southside. This development appears to clear Citizens Energy from any potential liability for the deadly explosion that caused several million dollars in property damage to area homes. Yesterday, the ex-husband of the owner of the home where the blast originated told a number of local news media outlets that he believed a faulty furnace may have contributed to the explosion. John Shirley told local media that his daughter had texted him a week earlier to tell him that she and her mother were staying in a hotel because the furnace was not working. He said his daughter later told him the furnace was working again.
A source tells Advance Indiana that investigators are looking at a gas-fired fireplace in the home and the possibility the chimney vent had been closed and the gas was left on, leaking throughout the home and causing it to fill up with gas before an electrical device, such as a hot water heater or furnace inside the home automatically kicked on and triggered the explosion. The owner of the home, Monserrate Shirley, and her boyfriend were out-of-town for the weekend at a casino when the explosion occurred according to her ex-husband. John Shirley told reporters his daughter stayed at a friend's home while her mother and boyfriend were out-of-town and the family's cat had been boarded, leaving the home unoccupied at the time of the explosion. Neither the home's owner nor the neighboring homeowners had complained of the smell of gas in the area prior to Saturday night's explosion according to Citizens Energy.
UPDATE: Indianapolis' Homeland Security released a statement this evening stating that the focus of its investigation of the cause of the blast is on a natural gas source. Investigators are focusing on appliances within the home that were gas-powered. "Our investigators believe natural gas is involved. They are currently in the process of recovering the appliances from destroyed homes to help determine the cause. Based on the NTSB statement, our focus is on the houses and appliances," DHS Chief Gary Coon says.
UPDATE II: The owner of the home where Saturday night's explosion originated is finally speaking publicly. Monserrate Shirley tells the AP she doesn't believe the furnace played a role in the explosion, contrary to what her ex-husband told reporters. Monserrate says she had the thermostat for the furnace replaced in October. Monserrate Shirley also claims she smelled a strange odor outside the home prior to the blast but doesn't know if it was natural gas. Here's a videotaped interview with Monserrate posted on the Indianapolis Star's website. She tells the Star she almost wishes she had been the one killed in the explosion instead of her neighbors because of all the finger-pointing she feels like she is having to endure as investigators search for answers into the cause of the explosion.: