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Tuesday September 18, 2018

natural gas explosion suspected in fatality

Thursday, July 05, 2018 16:09 PM
Written by Stan Maddux
Category: Local News

An explosion from a leaking natural gas line inside a LaPorte home could be the cause of what now has become a fatality.

LaPorte Fire Chief Andy Snyder said the findings of the joint investigation with the Indiana State Fire Marshal's Office are preliminary ''but that's the direction that we are gravitating toward right now.''

Lois Plotner, 72, and Tracy Swanson, 52, were burned over most of their bodies about 8 a.m. Wednesday inside an apartment house at 111 Woodward St. on the city's east side.

Plotner later died while Swanson was reported still in critical condition, authorities said.

Snyder said the source of the leak was narrowed to a natural gas line worked on the previous day not by a contractor or utility company.

''Someone connected'' to the property owner did the work, he said.

Snyder said it was not certain yet if the work on the line had anything to do with the leak.

He would not say more on who worked on the line.

Both victims were renters, he said.

According to a police report, there appeared to be six or seven different points of ignition in places like the livingroom, kitchen, basement and attached garage.

Snyder said natural gas once reaching a certain level ignites from contact with an ignition source.

A source of ignition can range from a hot water heater to static electricity created from the bottom of a door when opened brushing against carpeting.

''Once it ignities, it would ignite the gases throughout the house and that would cause the appearance of those multiple starting points,'' Snyder said.

According to police, both victims lived in the downstairs apartment.

They were removed from the structure by Amber Keith, 38, and her boyfriend, police said.

Police said Keith, a niece of the woman still alive the next day, lived in the upstairs apartment.

A set of bloody footprints on the sidewalk was left by one of the victims as they were being evacuated, police said. Matt Mueller, who lives next door, said he was letting his dog out in the backyard when he heard ''a big rush of air.''

Next, Mueller said he saw ''a bunch of stuff blow out of their back door.''

He said some of the debris hit a fence across the alley some 100 feet or more from the back of the residence.
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