NIPSCO claims their 'facilities were not involved' despite investigators saying cause could be natural gas explosion
NEW CHICAGO, Ind. (WLS) -- A woman is dead after a house explosion in New Chicago Wednesday, according to fire officials.
Witnesses and neighbors said emergency crews responded to a home following what sounded like an explosion just before noon on 29th Avenue in Indiana near Lake Station.
"I heard an explosion, and I just look outside and I see my neighbor's house and its all destroyed and demolished and a few seconds later there's a bunch of smoke and I was going to help but a few seconds after that there was fire," said neighbor Emiliano Casas.
Casas lives next door to the home on 29th and Decatur, and said before he saw the flames, he heard a terrifying sound.
"It sounded terrifying. I can't even explain," he said.
"I thought maybe a tree fall on my house - but when I turned around and looked south, I seen the smoke and the fire up in the air,' said Allen Mohr, who lives a few blocks away.
Casas ran over to try and help, as well another Good Samaritan, but then he heard a second explosion and said the flames became too intense.
ABC7 obtained cell phone video captured by a neighbor in the area who initially tried to help before the flames became too overpowering.
"I was nervous scared and afraid because I was worried that the next house or my own house come down as well," Casa said.
"We did a defensive attack because there was no way that we can do an interior attack with that much fire and that much smoke," said Chief Evin Eakins Jrm with the New Chicago Fire Department.
Neighbor Joshua Pollard said he knew the victim and described her as a comforting presence in the area.
"She just opened up her heart and had a big smile all the time," Pollard said.
Utility company, NIP-SCO said it was aware of the incident and assisted with first responders to secure the area.
The company also released a statement that said in part, "Our preliminary investigation of the scene indicates that NIPSCO facilities were not involved. Further inquiries should be directed to Lake Station Fire and Rescue."
Investigators have yet to reveal the cause of the explosion but said at this point, investigators are looking into the possibility of a natural gas explosion.
"The neighbors said they were smelling gas in the area and so we're coming into some time of conclusion that it was possibly a natural gas leak," said Chief Evin Eakins Jr, with the Town of New Chicago Fire Department.
Neighbors told ABC7 that they reported smelling gas in the area as far back as two weeks ago.
The woman who died has not yet been identified, although neighbors that knew her call her a loss a tragedy.
New Chicago's fire chief said the state Fire Marshal is assisting in this investigation.