New Chicago, Indiana (WLS) — A woman died in a New Chicago home explosion on Wednesday, fire officials said.
Witnesses and neighbors said paramedics responded to a home after hearing what sounded like an explosion just before noon on 29th Street in Indiana near Lake Station.
“I heard an explosion and I looked outside and saw my neighbor’s house all destroyed and demolished. Seconds later there was smoke and I tried to help but a few seconds later there was a fire. I did,” said neighbor Emiliano Casas.
Casas lived next door to the 29th and Decatur homes and said he heard a terrifying noise before he saw the flames.
“It sounded horrible. I can’t even explain it,” he said.
“I thought a tree had fallen on my house, but I turned around and looked south and saw smoke and fire rising into the air,” said Allen Mall, who lives a few blocks away. He said.
Casas rushed over to help like another Good Samaritan, but then he heard a second explosion and said the flames had grown too violent.
ChiPopular obtained cell phone video captured by a neighbor in the area who first tried to help before the blaze got too powerful.
“I was nervous and scared because I was worried that my neighbor’s house and my own house would collapse,” said Casa.
“There was no way we could make an internal attack with all this fire and smoke, so we went defensive,” said Evin Ekins, Jr., chief of the New Chicago Fire Department.
A neighbor, Joshua Pollard, said he knew the victim and said she was a comfort to have in the area.
“She was open minded and always had a big smile on her face,” Pollard said.
Utility company NIP-SCO said it was aware of the incident and assisted first responders in securing the area.
The company also released a statement saying, “Preliminary investigations of the site indicate that the NIPSCO facility was not involved. Further investigation should be directed to Lake Station Fire and Rescue.”
Investigators have yet to reveal the cause of the explosion, but at this point investigators said they were investigating a possible natural gas explosion.
“Neighbors said they could smell gas in the area, so we’re trying to conclude it’s probably a natural gas leak,” said New Chicago City Fire Chief Evin Ekins Jr.
A neighbor told ChiPopular he reported smelling gas in the area about two weeks ago.
The woman who died has not yet been identified, but neighbors who knew her called her loss a tragedy.
The New Chicago fire chief said the state fire chief is supporting the investigation.